By Lindsay Francisco, Staff Writer-
Countless hours of studying and pulling all-nighters is a part of the college experience, but George Salameh takes it to the next level.
Salameh is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and majors in computer engineering. Hailing from Jordan, Salameh moved to the United States six years ago.
Salameh and his family had always planned on moving to the United States for his education. They prepared him by enrolling him in English curriculum in Jordan, where all of his classes were taught in English.
“When everyone was speaking Arabic, English was easier for me,” Salameh said. “On standardized tests, I got As and Bs on everything, Arabic was my only C. It’s weird because it’s supposed to be the other way around.”
Salameh and his family moved to Franklin, Tennessee where he attended Centennial High School for his junior and senior year.
“The people here are super nice and inviting,” he said. “I thought there would be a lot of bullying in high school, like on the shows and movies, but when I came here I didn’t experience any of that.”
After high school graduation, Salameh decided UTC was the perfect college for him to attend because of its computer engineering program. Not only was Salameh’s father a computer engineer, but it was something he had shown interest in from a young age.
“I really love computers,” Salameh said. “In my spare time as a kid, you would always find me going in trying to hack stuff. I was never good at it, but I was always interested in that field with programming.”
Salameh’s parents had originally planned on him going to medical school. The plan was for Salameh to major in computer engineering while studying everything required to attend medical school then take the MCAT.
Salameh said, “It was the plan until a couple of months ago. Last semester I realized the only reason I’m doing it is because they want me to do it.”
It took multiple attempts from Salameh to convince his parents he didn’t want to become a medical doctor.
“It didn’t work the first or second time, every time I’d mention it they would say ‘you want this, you just don’t know it,’” he said. “At some point, I guess they realized I really didn’t want to do it and they don’t want to pressure me to do something I don’t want to.”
Rather than becoming a doctor, Salameh could see himself becoming a software developer but he would love to work with artificial intelligence.
“A dream job would be something that has to do with artificial intelligence,” Salameh said. “I think that area in computer engineering is really going to take off in the next five years.”
Continuing his computer engineering path, Salameh is currently enrolled in 20 credit hours and is set to graduate this spring. One of these classes is his senior project class, where he and his fellow classmates are developing a UTC parking app.
“We are making an app that will show you exactly how many parking spots are left in a parking lot,” Salameh said. “Instead of looking for spots and wasting your time, it would just tell you how many spots and you could immediately go where you need to be.”
Developing an app is new to Salameh and has required him to expand his knowledge and learn the new and many components that come with it.
“I had to start from scratch and understand everything and how it works,” Salameh said. “I’d sit for 10 hours working on it, classes would go by and I’d have no idea. I would forget about classes because I’m so focused on it.”
Salameh often finds himself working in his lab room until the early hours of the morning. He spends so many nights in his lab room that he even moved a small couch from the EMCS lobby into his room to sleep on.
“I’ve got my pillow, my blanket and I just sleep here,” he said. “When you turn off the lights, it’s pretty dark so it’s perfect.”
Staying awake for extremely long periods of time is easy for Salameh, he said he usually spends 30 hours awake between each sleep.
“I remember one time during finals I went to the library and I sat in one chair for three days,” Salameh said. “Now that I think about it, I’m disgusted by it. Imagine sitting in the same spot for three days, no food, no shower, that’s too much.”
Once Salameh begins to study, he doesn’t take breaks. “The thing with breaks is once you kill the momentum it’s really hard to get it back,” he said. “I would lose that thought process and that process is everything.”
Salameh may push his limits, but he knows when he can’t stay awake any longer. “Sometimes the words start moving, that’s a definite sign I need to stop,” he said.
As of recent, Salameh has tried to take some time from studying to hang out with friends and even go to the gym, his newest hobby being rock climbing.
“Studying was everything for two years and I got tired of it. It was exhausting and boring having no life,” he said. “I try to get out there and have more fun lately, but sometimes you just can’t.”
Salameh said, “I know it sounds crazy, this lifestyle or whatever, but it’s worth it. I promise it’s worth it.”