Relationship Goals: GW Couple Earns Three Advanced Degrees Together

Mohamad Alahdal and Rahaf Alamoudi will graduate May 19 with degrees from GW Engineering and GW Business, their 14-month-old daughter in the audience.

May 9, 2024

Mohamad Alahdal, Rahaf Alamoudi and their daughter Ayla sporting GW gear. (Courtesy Rahaf Alamoudi)

Mohamad Alahdal, Rahaf Alamoudi and their daughter Ayla sporting GW gear. (Courtesy Rahaf Alamoudi)

Mohamad Alahdal was just six years old when he first set eyes on the girl he wanted to marry. Rahaf Alamoudi was a family friend in their hometown of Mecca, Saudi Arabia—bright, energetic and creative, with a contagious laugh. Alahdal, who is more methodical and subdued, knew he hadn’t caught her eye when they were kids. But he was prepared to wait.

More than two decades after they met as children, the couple are both graduating from the George Washington University with three advanced degrees between them. When they walk their respective stages at Commencement, their 14-month-old daughter, Ayla, will be in the audience.

“We’re here because I’m a patient person,” Alahdal said, laughing. 

The couple married in 2019, after completing their undergraduate studies in Saudi Arabia. It was Alahdal’s second proposal; Alamoudi admitted she wasn’t ready the first time he asked and didn’t quite believe he’d carried a torch for as long as he said he had. “I felt like ‘You’re a liar,’” she said with a smile. “But he remembers everything, even the details of my home. He has such a strong memory.” The second time he asked, she said yes.

In the years since then, they’ve endured two major moves—first from Mecca to Austin, Texas, where they both completed English courses, and then cross country from Austin to Washington, D.C., after they were admitted to GW. Here, Alahdal earned an M.S. in electrical engineering from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, while Alamoudi earned both an M.B.A. and a Master of Human Resource Development (M.H.R.M.) from the School of Business’ Global MBA Program.

The couple always knew working toward simultaneous degrees would be stressful. It was an ambitious and challenging plan, so before undertaking it they thought they might enjoy a leisurely drive to see the eastern half of America on the way to GW. But they didn’t know that something even more life-changing was coming. Just a few days before their planned departure, Alamoudi discovered she was pregnant.

Alahdal, the level-headed engineer, assumed they’d change their plans and book a flight. But Alamoudi insisted she was fine. She didn’t want to miss their road trip. She wanted to see Tennessee and Arkansas. Alahdal conceded.

It was an example of the compromise and balance that make their relationship work—and it was also the last free time they’d have for months. The first year “was crazy,” Alamoudi said. Ayla was born at the end of the couple’s second semester at GW in late March 2023, and Alamoudi’s family visited from Saudi Arabia to help with childcare. She took just three weeks off before returning to take her finals—not because her professors insisted, she said, but because she wanted to experience her final exams and presentations communally with other students in her cohort.

In fact, Alamoudi and Alahdal both said their professors and advisers went above and beyond to help them navigate a moment that could have been overwhelming. Alamoudi credited her academic adviser, Deborah Klatzkin, and Johan Ferreira, teaching assistant professor of marketing, with making her first chaotic finals period possible with a month-old infant at home. Alahdal noted several professors who helped him make it through the sleep-deprived first months of fatherhood, especially Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Payman Dehghanian, his adviser, who reminded him to put his family first.

But above all, the couple credit each other. They are constant cheerleaders for one another’s accomplishments, each spotlighting their partner’s hard work and unflagging support. They clearly love the way their different personalities compliment one other—Alahdal’s detail-oriented planner’s mind, Alamoudi’s big dreams and go-getter enthusiasm. In their first year as parents, Alahdal laid out their class schedules to ensure there were no conflicts around Ayla’s care, while encouraging Alamoudi to pursue all the opportunities she had energy for. She even earned additional academic certificates in human capital and leadership, as Alahdal makes sure to point out when it looks like his wife might not brag about her achievements on her own.

Alamoudi was required to study abroad as part of the Global M.B.A. program, and the two worried about how possible that would be with a baby to care for. But Alahdal insisted they make it work, and over winter break this year, the family traveled together to France. On their return to Dulles Airport, she threw her arms around him and told him, “Thank you.”

“He always, always supports me,” Alamoudi said. “If I have success in this journey, he’s the only reason.”

Now that they’re about to graduate together, they have some simple advice for couples who find themselves facing big challenges: “You’ll adapt.”

“Things happen,” Alamoudi said. “If you plan for this and this and this and you think everything will go as you planned—that's not true at all. So be flexible, and it’s OK. If this is not the time for Plan A, we try B, C, D until Z.”