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The man who came in to the cold

Reading time: 4 min

How a 27-year-old Yemeni came to Leoben, Austria, via Malaysia – and how OMV benefits from this.


A warm pullover? Winter boots? A coat suitable for sub-zero temperatures? At least a hat or some gloves? Arafat Al-Salat did not own any of these things when he landed at Vienna International Airport in October 2014 and then took the train to Leoben. And why would he ever have needed them before? After all, he had spent the previous five years in Malaysia at temperatures of between 23 and 31 degrees Celsius and before that he was in his home country of Yemen where temperatures rarely fell below 20 degrees. Even in winter. Even at night.

But now Arafat is sitting in Leoben, in Styria, in the depth of winter. “It was something of an adjustment”, says the 27-year-old, “In one fell swoop I moved from Malaysia, where being on the Equator it’s normal that it’s always hot and humid, to Austria—literally from one day to the next”. Arafat is one of 111 students completing the “International Petroleum Engineering” master’s degree, offered by Montanuniversität Leoben in cooperation with OMV.

A change of scenery – from the jungle to Leoben

So how did he feel about the change? The sudden cold? And the comparatively tranquil setting of a small Styrian city, especially after living at a Malaysian campus, situated in a jungle-like forest 200 kilometers away from the bustling metropolis of Kuala Lumpur?


“Good”, says Arafat, as his fellow students call him. After a quick pit stop in a local clothes shop, even the cold was no longer that bad. “I fell in love with this city from day one. It is quite simply a wonderful environment, I love it when the green mountain tops are covered with white snow, it looks a bit like a fairytale. I also like the atmosphere in the city, the rows of colorful houses, and I like the fact that Leoben is a very international city”.

Arafat is studying for his Master’s degree with students from many other countries. In addition to the Yemeni, there are young people from Pakistan, Romania, Hungary, Tunisia, Germany and Austria studying International Petroleum Engineering.

The students also spend quite a lot of time together, as they not only attend lectures, but complete the curriculum units together in line with the new approach of Montanuniversität Leoben. Tutors are on hand almost all the time for these units to help with any questions the students may have. What’s more, as the sponsor of this program, OMV has rented out apartments which the students share – giving them even more opportunities to share their experiences.

Practice is key

The Master’s program takes a total of two years and Arafat has already successfully completed half of the course. What has he liked best?

Arafat Al-Salat Master’s student at Montanuniversität Leoben, Austria
The comprehensive know-how of the lecturers has really impressed me. They all have a lot of practical experience and have sometimes been out in the field personally the day before. They are therefore especially good at explaining the key topics.
Arafat Al-Salat, Petroleum Engineering Graduate (MSc)

It is not only the extensive experience of the lecturers which ensures that practical aspects are not overlooked, but also a work experience placement during the previous summer. In August and September Arafat supported the team in the Production Technology Department in OMV’s head office in Vienna. The cooperation also extended out of the office: At the beach volleyball court with two colleagues.


The curriculum also included an excursion to a conference in Poland and one close to Munich. “There we visited the company Bauer, which manufactures the infrastructure for oil fields. This allowed us to make good contacts and to meet a lot of important people – almost all of whom were graduates of Montanuniversität”, explained Arafat proudly.

Mentors from OMV are also available for the students, giving them advice and support. This has been helpful for Arafat: “My mentor treated me like a colleague right from the start. He is really interested in helping me and always has time for my questions”.

On the home straight

Arafat will remain in Austria until the end of summer; he will start working on his Master’s thesis in February. He is researching the topic of drilling in “basement reservoirs” – a formation which is particularly common in his home country of Yemen. He underlines, however, that he is very flexible when it comes to his later place of work. “I’m open to everything. It doesn’t matter whether I get a post in Norway, Africa or New Zealand. Flexibility and lots of travel simply come with the job as a Drilling Engineer”.

Arafat Al-Salat, 27, born in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, completed his Bachelor’s degree in Petroleum Engineering at the Malaysian Petronas University of Technology. He is currently living in Leoben and in the final phase of his International Petroleum Engineering Master’s course.

Cooperation of OMV and Montanuniversität Leoben

  • OMV supports scientific institutions in order to encourage local and international development and ensure a high employment rate in technical fields.
  • 28 scholarship holders are currently studying with an OMV Excellence Master Scholarship at Montanuniversität Leoben.
  • Since 2012, OMV has also been granting scholarships to Tunisian students enrolled in a bachelor’s program at Montanuniversität.
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