Senior Snapshot, Aysar Abdelgelil ’23: “I Have the Space to Make New Decisions”

Aysar Abdelgelil poses next to a wall covered in bottle caps that is located in Punch's Alley.
Image credit: Karen Osuna ’25
Author  Jen Doyle ’25 and E.B. Bartels ’10
Published on 

At Wellesley, Aysar Abdelgelil ’23 has had the opportunity to try all kinds of things she'd never done before: "There is a playground atmosphere," she says.

Abdelgelil says she has always been interested in audio/video and had been an “AV kid” in high school; at Wellesley, she started doing tech for big organizations’ events on campus. “I was able to do things like branch into the music department, the studio art department, LTS, and the Knapp Center,” says Abdelgelil. She appreciates that unlike a larger university, Wellesley lets its students try lots of different things even without previous experience: “You just have to show that you’re trying.”

This spring, Abdelgelil did all of the AV setup and repairs for Punch’s Alley as the pub prepared to reopen for the first time since March 2020. She’s also been a member of the MIT Laptop Ensemble, a part of the MIT music technology program that’s based in the Voxel Lab. The group programs modular instruments and performs using live coding techniques. “All of this has made me a better musician, and a better artist,” says Abdelgelil, who recently had her own show performing live coding and electronic synthesis at Punch’s Alley.

“I have started joining things that I think are truly representative of myself,” she says. Abdelgelil thinks the pandemic pushed her to try different things, be flexible, and rearrange her schedule: “It helped me feel like I have the space to make new decisions.”

When she first got to Wellesley, Abdelgelil wanted to study international relations. She planned to focus on the history of North Africa—her family is Egyptian—and started studying Arabic. “I thought that I had to do something in public policy, or something like that, in order to make my degree feel like it was worthwhile in the end,” she says.

But then Abdelgelil took MUS 277: Interactive Sound Art with Electronics with Jenny Johnson, associate professor of music.

“We did a lot of coding and electrical engineering components, and those things culminated in a group sound art installation and an individual sound art installation,” says Abdelgelil. Something clicked for her, and after that class she wanted to major in sound technology. Though she is officially a history and music double major, Abdelgelil has created her own major in sound technology and media studies by studying music, technology, cinema, and media. This semester, she worked with Johnson on an independent study culminating in an installation as part of the 2023 senior and thesis art exhibition on a wall in the Jewett Sculpture Court, in which she combined elements of sound, film, and sculpture that is “spatializing sound with cinema.”

Abdelgelil has continued to study history, focusing on Egypt and the Middle East, as well as Arabic media and cinema. “I was able to use a closer study of Egyptian cinema to really understand how the culture operates, in a way that made sense for me,” she says. “However you decide to represent different aspects, however you decide to make the environment look or what kind of avatars you choose to represent different things, those decisions are all made based on a cultural experience.”

Her classes have all had an influence on her worldview: “[The music tech classes have] showed me that I can use those applications for history … and my history degree has offered me a background for the way that I look at things and the way that I can analyze or approach tech.”

Post-Wellesley, Abdelgelil plans to study library science or information technology, possibly abroad. “Part of why I want to go into library science is because history covers everything, and I think AV has offered me the opportunity to get more into cinema and sound studies, which are really just representations of different aspects of history,” she says. “The more I learn about different things or about specific topics, the more connections I’m able to make.”