Mustafa Abo-Tabik became a student at Minuteman Technical Institute (MTI) in the fall of 2020 in the Automotive Technology program. Mustafa, who works at a Toyota dealership in Lexington, immigrated to the United States from Iraq. For seven years, he worked in Iraq for an American oil drilling company – beginning in the oil fields and receiving several promotions. In 2016, he landed an oil field job in Texas upon his arrival to the United States but wanted to pursue an education in something he loved: automobiles. After briefly enrolling in college in Sacramento, California, he drove across the country in early 2020 to live with his brother, a doctor, in Lexington. His brother encouraged him to apply to MTI.
Q: What do you like most about cars?
I love to be around cars. I love the big engines, the diesel engines, the small car engines. I like to be around engines and the source of power, I think, because I used to work in the oil fields. Any resource of power, I love that.
Q: What made you decide to leave the oil industry to gain an education in automotive?
In my late 20s, I decided I would try college. I enrolled in one semester, but I didn’t feel studies were for me. I realized that studying was not right for me because I had spent the last few years working. I didn’t feel I would have success with that. But, I was looking for something other than the oil industry. The oil industry, it seems like, won’t stay so long in this situation because the world is changing. I wanted to get into something else.
Q: How does MTI help you with your current job?
I’ve learned a lot of things. When I learn things in class, the next day I will go to work, I will see a car in front of me, and I will try to match what I just learned in class. For example, in class we read about the starter. Now, every time I open the hood for each vehicle, I look to see where is the starter? Or, what does it require for the starter or the alternator. Every time I study something, the next day at work I will search for that. I will try to see it in person, physically, and not just in books.
Q: What is your next career goal?
Maybe I could start out as a mechanic, but after that I would like to run a business, like maybe a used car dealership. When I was living in Texas and California, I bought and sold many used cars from auctions. I bought Fords, Chryslers, Toyotas and Hondas. … I would enjoy the car first [by driving it around for a few weeks], and I would fix it up. Once I got the title and the paperwork… I would post it online to sell.
Q: Tell us about why you immigrated to the United States.
I worked for seven years, in Iraq, for an American oil drilling company. After I finished with high school, I joined them. I learned many things and got to many positions. In 2016, I lost my job because the prices for oil went down. The company had been supporting and providing for me, and gave me a residency status [which is needed to live in this particular region, which is safer than other parts of Iraq.] I had nowhere to go. I didn’t want to go back to Baghdad because it was dangerous. At that time, I still had a valid visa to the U.S., so I could study and start my life over from there. It was a good decision for me.
Q: Tell us about your experience once you arrived in the U.S.
I applied for asylum. It got accepted very fast. I worked in Texas for an oil drilling company on the platforms. I didn’t have a fixed schedule. One week you would work 60 hours, another week it’s 100 hours. You would meet your group of four or five workers, and go to the rig site where the drilling is. The job was to tighten the pipes… like every part – one on top of another on top of another. Any mistake will make a disaster. It’s very tough. It’s hard.
Q: You drove across the country, from California to Massachusetts. What was your favorite part?
I do a lot of road trips. There is a big difference between the east and the west [of the United States]. It’s totally different. When I’m driving in the west, the roads and highways are so big, then state by state the road gets more small. California is a beautiful state and the weather is nice, but it is expensive. Every state has a different thing I like. I can’t say one is better than the other. New England is a nice place, and I am very happy to be studying at Minuteman Technical Institute as I prepare for my future.