• Mohamed Elhalwagy

Two things brought me to the UK in 2019: my studies and my now-wife. In just a few years, I am lucky to have been blessed with a family, a community of friends and a new business. 

But, first, let's start at the beginning. After I completed my undergraduate degree in Egypt, I moved to France to study for a Master’s degree. Some family friends from the UK came to visit and my father suggested I show them around. I had known these friends for many years but had never met their daughter – we spoke for a while and hit it off, and that is how I met my future wife. We initially planned to stay in France, and my wife began to look for French lessons, but I came upon an opportunity for a PhD at the University of Liverpool that was exactly what I was looking for, and we decided that I would migrate to the UK instead. Now we live on the Wirral with our young daughter, while I study how to use artificial intelligence for the early diagnosis of liver cancer.

Having lived in Egypt, France and the UK, I can see that every country has its advantages. My experience in Liverpool and Merseyside has been really good – people are friendly and open-minded and see the value of diversity in improving our society. I can't talk about Liverpool and not mention the footballer Mo Salah! It's heartwarming to see how well loved he is here – he also does a lot of good in Egypt, and I feel he has really exemplified our Egyptian culture here in the UK.

Still, after a few years in the UK, I have started to notice that sometimes people in the UK see immigrants as less qualified, which I find frustrating, because I have lived in three countries and put a lot of effort into integrating into those different societies, and I was successful as a result; I have many friends from all different socioeconomic backgrounds who illustrate this as well. 

It’s not that immigrants move because they do not love their home countries – it’s just that there may be a better opportunity for them in some fields in another country, or that they met their partner here and want to be together. This is something that I wish the British public understood and empathised with.

Wellbeing and mental health are really important to me. I currently volunteer as a wellbeing ambassador at the University of Liverpool and, in my studies, I have found that what we eat has a massive impact on our attitude, day-to-day productivity and wellbeing in the short term, not to mention the potential for enabling or preventing many diseases in the long term. However, I have come to realise that access to fresh, high-quality fruit and vegetables in the UK is limited and expensive. My family in Egypt has over 70 years' experience in agriculture and have always put significant efforts into producing fruit and vegetables in a high-quality, organic way. To address this gap in my new home country, I set up a new start up – Marakia – importing fresh, high-quality fruit and vegetables from Egypt and selling in the UK at fair and accessible prices. I am currently supplying over 20 shops in Liverpool, Manchester and the Wirral, as well as wholesalers, and I have lots of ideas still under development to integrate my medical and technical background to serve my new community in the UK.

Originally from Egypt, Mohamed Elhalwagy came as a biomedical engineering international student to do a PhD and is now researching biomedical engineering to help with the early prediction of liver cancer patients using AI.