Traveling abroad has become complicated, and making long-term plans to study and move abroad has become an impossibility. Travel restrictions, new measures, and constant changes that limit opportunities have dissuaded many to apply to local and international universities. Pas-sport is an Egypt-based startup that was helping students receive sports scholarships in the United States prior to the pandemic. Now, the startup’s founder, Nada Zaher tells WAYA about Pas-sport’s plans for the future.
Zaher, who was granted a tennis scholarship at Columbia University in the United States, became frustrated when submitting her college applications as she began to realize the lack of support from schools and sports clubs alike in helping her reach her desired goals. Zaher noticed and stated specifically that, “Athletes in Egypt receive little attention”. Upon returning to Egypt, she decided to use her personal experience to help aspiring student-athletes in the MENA region who were just like her and founded Pas-sport in 2018.
The startup has helped over 800 athletes apply to over 130 universities. One of its success stories is Ali El Tokhey, who won a scholarship to study at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. As one of Egypt’s top squash players, Zaher informed Ali of the massive benefits on offer by studying abroad. El Tokhey would be able to use professional support from American universities to take his squash career to the next level. Within two months of submitting his application, he was accepted, becoming one of the first Egyptian student-athletes to study at the university.
The Challenge of the Pandemic
The pandemic has had massive repercussions on the startup. “Our main goal is to send athletes in Egypt on scholarships to US universities so corona has directly affected Pas-sport. The thing is now is universities abroad the US is not able to offer as many scholarships, even if people get in they are having visa issues student visa issues to get to go to school in time in the US,” Zaher explains.
However, even once a student-athlete reaches the destination, there is still a halt as a result of social distancing measures. “A lot of the conferences and the leagues are also stopped in the US, so even if an athlete goes they are not really competing. It defeats the purpose and a lot of the athletes end up having to do online in their first semester or first year while paying a large tuition so a lot of them are not going through that path anymore which is difficult for us cause a lot of them were excited and we had great teams and great athletes but they all kind of took a step back.”
Zaher has not given up on Pas-sport and is at how she can better prepare younger students. “Now we are really thinking ahead trying to plan for three years down hoping things will be back to normal so instead of speaking to athletes that are about to graduate this year we’re speaking to athletes that are currently in Grade 10 or Grade 9 to prep them for hopefully when they graduate and things will be back to normal”, Zaher tells WAYA.
Zaher states that there is a gap in the market that Pas-sport is trying to fill, and that students and parents turn to Pas-sport’s team for guidance. “Whether it’s sending people to college or just truly doing something for the sports world in Egypt. It’s a market that really needs a lot more work and a lot more is going to happen, I’m assuming it’s going to develop in the next few years. We want to stick around and see, whether it’s college or something else, we can really impact the sports scene in Egypt with Pas-sport”, she says. Zaher is ready to adapt to the changing climate in the post-pandemic world.
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