Saudi Arabia: Expatriates Should Not Take Advantage of Sympathy or Generosity

public laundry

valleygirltalk.com

 

There was a recent incident which took place in Jeddah.  A Pakistani couple claim they were accosted by a Saudi couple in a public place of business.  However, all anyone has to go on is the expatriate’s account of the incident.  We all know there are always two sides to every story.

The incident, from what the expatriate couple are stating, seemed to stem from an initial altercation between the Pakistani woman and a Saudi woman.  The altercation intensified and the husband’s became involved.

There have been no accounts from any witnesses of the incident.  Yet the incident as it was relayed evoked shock, outrage and sympathy for the Pakistani couple.  Senior officials from the place of business were made aware of the incident and contacted the Pakistani couple.  A well known English language daily in the Kingdom even carried an article about the incident with an apology to the Pakistani couple.

Yet since the incident has taken place, instead of responding with grace and a positive outlook, the Pakistani woman seems more intent on raising ire with Saudi nationals, expatriates in the Kingdom and her own homeland.

As a result, support and sympathy for the couple is dwindling.  The Pakistani woman even created a specific Facebook Page for further discussions about the incident and demand for change to occur within the Kingdom on Saudis attitudes of expatriates.

American Bedu was part of the Facebook Group but found herself unceremoniously removed from the group when declaring that what the Pakistani woman was now doing and saying was not appropriate.

I can live with being declared persona non grata of a Facebook Group.  But I will restate what I believe was sound advice to the Pakistani woman.  If one is dissatisfied with action or lack thereof from an incident in Saudi Arabia, do not continue to talk badly about your host country.  Even –if- (which is now questionable) she has a valid complaint, she remains a guest in the country.  Both she and her husband are under the sponsorship of a Saudi employer.  Secondly, it is not appropriate to post private correspondence between her and her country’s Consulate in a public Facebook Group.  In addition, although she is not satisfied with the response from the Consulate, she should not mock her country’s role in Saudi Arabia and its relationship with the Kingdom.

Okay, enough of what should not have been done.  Instead she should have filed a report with the manager at the place of business where the incident occurred.  The police should have been called immediately.  Statements should have been collected from witnesses.  She did notify her Consulate.  She did speak with senior officials at the place of business.  However, rather than complain and make a mockery of the positive that took place, she should instead have delivered a comprehensive –and realistic- action plan of what she wanted to see in the way of restitution and resolution.  Details of which should remain between her and the officials involved, rather than share in a “dissing” manner on a public Facebook Page.

It is American Bedu’s assessment based on her own years of experience that the Pakistani woman, more so than her husband, is enjoying her “15 minutes of global fame” and trying to prolong the attention to herself.  Instead of reaching a positive resolution her husband may very well receive unwanted pressure due to his wife’s inappropriate actions.

Wrongs can be righted but it must be done within the parameters of an established procedure.

Saudi Arabia: So Many Niqabs to Choose From!

 

I must first preface this post by stating that I rarely covered my head let alone wore a niqab while I was in Saudi Arabia.  There were only a few occasions when it was appropriate for me to wear a niqab.  I wore one but have to confess I did not like the feeling or what to me felt like obscured vision due to the niqab.  The reason that I am writing this particular post is in response to several queries I have had lately about the differing type of niqabs women may choose to wear in Saudi Arabia.  I am not an expert on the subject but will address it to the best of my ability.  I am really counting on those American Bedu readers who do wear the niqab to provide their comments on why they wear a niqab, what style they have chosen and why as well as how easy it is for them to see while wearing the niqab.

The niqab is the accessory which some Muslim women and many women within Saudi Arabia will choose to wear so that their entire face is covered from view with the exception of the eyes.

saudi niqab

blog.sunnahstyle.com

 

The most common style of niqab in Saudi Arabia and the one I wore when necessary is the niqab which covers the face and has a slit in the center for the eyes to show through.  This style of niqab did not necessarily come in a wide variety of sizes and as a result, the one I had fit poorly.  My eyelids and eyelashes would brush or rub against the eye slit and in turn irritated my eyes.  The niqab would either tie in the back around the hijab or in some cases you could secure it with Velcro strips.

newer niqab style

beduionprincess.blogspot

 

Another niqab which was rising in popularity prior to my 2009 departure from Saudi Arabia was the niqab which was worn from the nose down.  This particular niqab left the eyes unimpeded.  Some Saudi women will not wear this type of niqab seeing it as too progressive.  However, younger Saudi women and more open-minded Saudi women who still choose to wear a niqab prefer this version as it is more aesthetically pleasing and comfortable.

beudion niqab

examiner.com

Some women and particularly Saudi beudoin women may prefer the niqab that has a fabric line which separates the eyes.  Needless to say, this niqab would need to fit well for it could be quite annoying if the eye divider did not fall as it should centered between the eyes.

While the traditional niqabs are black, some women are starting to wear niqabs that are in a different color or have some type of decoration or appliqué on them.

But as I stated in the beginning of this post, I need to rely on the experiences of American Bedu readers to share with others on why they wear a niqab, what style they have chosen and why, as well as how easy it is for them to see while wearing the niqab.

Saudi Arabia: Living in Saudi Arabia Requires a Tougher Skin

tough skin required

eloquentwoman.blogspot.com

 

Whether one is an expatriate in Saudi Arabia or a foreigner married to a Saudi, to Saudis you are viewed as a guest in their country.  The majority of Saudis will go out of their way to be hospitable, kind and helpful to the guests.

I had multiple experiences of both Saudi men and women approaching me in grocery stores or department stores wanting to be helpful or simply practice their English.  I had approaches by both men and women and none in an inappropriate manner.  Saudi women were especially kind if I were in an abaya store or in a women’s formal store searching for a gown to wear to a wedding.   They wanted to assist in helping me find the perfect abaya or gown!

However, I also had a few of my own experiences which were not as welcoming.  One experience featured two women who were determined to jump ahead of me in the queue at a shoe store.  These women though were not aware I was not in the shoe store alone.  I was with Mama Moudy, my Saudi mother-in-law.  She let them know in no uncertain terms there actions were rude and uncalled for.  Both the women were quickly apologizing to me!

The bottom line though is both the good and bad experiences between expatriates and Saudis can go both ways.  Rather than risk a public altercation, it’s better to have thick skin and pay no mind when someone does something less than socially acceptable.  Expatriates are each individual Ambassadors of their respective countries and Saudis are also representatives of their country too.  We each choose what kind of impression we want to leave with one another.

Of course, if either an expatriate or a Saudi has taken an action that goes beyond just mere rudeness or sarcasm, the wronged party should seek restitution through the proper channels.  While doing so, an expatriate should also remember that Saudis have WASTA, meaning the ability to use influence or contacts.  That does not mean an expatriate who has been wronged can’t seek restitution, but the manner in which it is done must be in conformity with the culture.

If an expatriate chooses to go public about an incident and sites places, names, and individuals where a Saudi was in the wrong, that Saudi and/or its institution will lose face.  A point will have been made but maybe at the jeopardy of the expatriate, especially if the Saudi has WASTA.

If an expatriate goes public and states facts without identifying specific individuals or organizations but at the same time letting it be known that more specifics are available, this does give an opportunity of face saving and also setting things right in a more amicable and satisfactory fashion.

All expatriates in the Kingdom are sponsored by either an individual Saudi or a Saudi organization.  As a result, there is much more pressure on the expatriates to abide by the customs and traditions of the Kingdom.  And don’t forget, the expatriate is also the guest…but guests can be asked to leave.

Saudi Arabia: Hippocratic Oath – Ethical or Compassionate

hippocratic oath

americanrtl.org

 

The decision of a Saudi judge to order the surgical paralysis of a 24 year old Saudi man as retribution for an incident that occurred ten years ago has made global headlines.  The majority of the World is outraged by the inhumane decision of this judge.

At the same time, there is another case pending in Saudi courts where an accident victim wants to see the guilty party surgically paralyzed rather than accept the six million SAR she had been offered as retribution.  However, the Jeddah judge who heard this case deferred on a ruling and instead urged the woman to accept the “blood money.”

Not only do these two incidents raise questions on the authority and boundaries of Saudi judges but the issue goes beyond what is viewed as just in the case of an “eye for an eye.”

While one judge made a ruling which basically sanctioned the surgical paralysis of a human being, doesn’t such a directive contradict the international Hippocratic Oath taken by all physicians?

“The Hippocratic Oath is an oath historically taken by physicians and other healthcare professionals swearing to practice medicine ethically and honestly.  It requires a new physician to swear upon a number of healing gods that he will uphold a number of professional ethical standards.”

How could a doctor who has taken the oath to preserve life willingly agree to surgical paralyze an individual?

This also brings up questions about other practices which continue to take place in Saudi Arabia.  A thief may have his right hand removed.  Other charges may result in amputation of both a hand and a foot.  In cases of murder, narcotics, heinous crimes and even proselytizing, the penalty can be death by beheading.  In all of these cases, a physician is involved.  When the accused is expected to survive the punishment, such as an amputation, a physician will administer anesthesia and drugs to prevent infection.  In the case of an execution, the accused is administered drugs to not only dull the pain or reality of what is happening but to make the accused more docile when the act of beheading is carried out.

In such cases, would the physicians role be categorized as ethical or compassionate?

Saudi Arabia: Home Stay and Message to the Saudi Student

Homestay Outdoors

aussie-stays.com

 

The largest numbers ever of Saudi students are studying outside of the Kingdom at Universities around the world.  The students (and their spouse when applicable) receive not only funds for their tuition and books but they also receive a generous stipend which covers accommodations, cost of living and transport.  Some students choose to have their own apartment or rent a house, especially if they are married.  Others may choose to have a room in a “Home Stay.”

Saudi students come initially to the host country for English language training and post-secondary education.  They usually understand the English language better than they speak it.  Homestay offers the students an excellent opportunity to develop and practice their conversational skills, as well as to experience the culture of the host country in a friendly family setting.

Host families are expected to provide the students with reasonable daily requirements.  Each student should have a private room with adequate furnishings.  He/she should be treated as a member of the family, sharing meals and participating in the family’s routine and social activities.  The student should have reasonable access to all the household facilities.

In other words, the Saudi student is taken into the HOME of a family in the country where they have chosen to study.  This family opens up not only the doors of their home to the student but allows the student to enter into their life as well.  This is an HONOR and PRIVELEDGE to the student and an enriching experience providing insights into the host country that a student would not otherwise receive.  Most host families will do everything in their capacity to make the Saudi student feel welcomed.  It’s not unusual for a host family to have a prayer rug and Quran in the student’s room.  The host family usually wants to and is strongly encouraged to also learn about the customs and traditions of Saudi Arabia from the student.  It is an excellent exchange opportunity.

However, it is also expected that the student will abide by any house rules that his or her host have set in place.  The student is also expected to be mannerly, clean and polite.  The Saudi student needs to view their home stay as if they are staying with family and always show the family proper respect and courtesy.

Due to the increased number of Saudi students abroad and those who are utilizing a home stay option, there have been increased complaints about the attitude and manners of some Saudi students.

It is expected that home stay students will be responsible for the cleanliness of their room and wash room.  They may be asked to help out with setting or clearing the table or even doing dishes.  If they do their own cooking outside of family meal times, they are expected to clean up after themselves and leave the kitchen as it was before they prepared their meal.  If meals are usually eaten with the family, the student is expected to let the family know when he or she will be absent or late.  If a curfew is set, the student is to abide it.  A student should not have friends over and especially late at night without clearing it first with the home stay host.

Thompson Rivers University in Canada, which has Saudi students among their international students, has an excellent manual for the home stay host and the home stay student.  Australia hosts many Saudi students in home stays and compiled extensive findings from both the hosts and students to further improve home stay experiences.

Saudi students who disrespect their home stay family and disregard the house rules are creating a bad reputation and jeopardizing opportunities for future Saudi students to have a home stay experience.

Saudi Arabia/USA: On Hugs and Kisses

universal greetings

waggeneredstrom.com

I never noticed until being immune-suppressed how “touchy” a culture we have in America!  While we do respect personal space, think about what happens when a typical American meets someone new or is just greeting someone they know.  They shake hands, they hug, they kiss …. And they pat each other’s back!  Because I am immune-suppressed due to my cancer (I have a very low immune system which makes me extra susceptible to catching a cold or a virus) I am prohibited from the traditional contact.  When I go out to a public place I have to wear a face mask and sometimes gloves.  Ironically this still does not keep Americans away from wanting to hug and pat the back!

Whereas in Saudi Arabia, even when one is not battling an illness, there can remain a reserve and a no-man’s land or red line that is not crossed.  Men will shake hands with other men but probably not with other women.  Women will air kiss and then sometimes shake hands with other women.  There is not as much hugging as a greeting among either friends or strangers.

Why exactly do Americans like to hug and pat the backs of strangers?  If you don’t want that to happen to you, you don’t have to resort to wearing a mask or gloves, simply cross your arms over your chest when greeting someone.  This is a universal sign of greeting but without touch!

Saudi Arabia: War Zone or a Celebration?

Although it is not 100 per cent clear in the video, it is not unusual during the men’s wedding part y for the men to celebrate by shooting their weapons up in the air.  But what is somewhat unusual in this specific video is how many of the Saudi men have automatic weapons and how at least one of the men is wearing a vest for easy access to his weapons.

This is also an illuminating video in that it depicts the ease, quantity and type of automatic weapons that are available to Saudis within the Kingdom.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vezR2dNg9xQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Saudi Arabia/USA: The Story of the Orange Couch

I have not written recently about some of the memories made with my late husband, Abdullah.  I think this one may bring a smile or perhaps even a chuckle to some American Bedu readers.

What color is this couch?  Please, before scrolling on and reading more, go ahead and type your guess in comments.

orange couch

In case you have not typed your guess yet in comments, I’m giving you another chance to guess before I tell the complete story behind this couch.

orange couch

Okay….did you type your guess?  I hope so for now here is … the rest of the story!

my desert boy

I was still in India when Abdullah Al-Ajroush called to tell me he bought us a couch. I was excited and asked him what style and color. He responded that it was a casual couch from Ikea. Okay, I thought. That sounds good but what color is it? “Orange.” He told me. I kind of squealed back “orange” and then there was a pregnant pause in the conversation. He comes back with the response, “well it is kind of orange but not really orange. It just has a little bit of an orange tint to it.” Well, I came back from India and we agreed to disagree on the true color of the ‘not really orange’ couch. That was also when we took this picture so that we would always remember this conversation. Ahhhh, that’s part of what made me so love Abdullah.

Saudi Arabia/USA: Abeer Shares her Experience as a Female Saudi Student in the USA

  • American Bedu is pleased to present this interview with Abeer, a female Saudi student who is studying in the United States.

saudi students usa

menafn.com 

 

 

  • First of all Abeer, thank you for following American Bedu blog and for agreeing to this interview!

 

Thank you so much for the opportunity. It’s an honor to be on your blog!

I want to add that I use your blog as one of my resources to keep myself updated with news about home!

 

  • Let’s begin with a little bit about yourself.  What part of the Kingdom are you from?  Prior to arriving in the United States for studies, what was your educational and professional background?   makkah

I am from Makkah but I have been living in Jeddah for the last 14 years, I usually joke around and tell people I’m from the Highway (Khat Alsaree3!!)

I received my BA and MA in Linguistics from King AbdulAziz University. I started off teaching English in a center during my sophomore year summer break and continued doing that until my graduation. After graduation I worked with Effat University and have been with them ever since until I received the King Abdullah Scholarship through the university. My last post before I left for my PhD was the Enhancement Centers manager in Student Affairs.

  • What made you decide to study specifically in the United States?  Where are you studying?  Was Indiana University your first preference?  Why or why not?

I chose the US and specifically the Midwest because I grew up within the area; my father was doing his PhD in the University of Madison Wisconsin when I was young. I had a wonderful childhood experiencing all the seasons and the Midwest friendliness.

IU   I applied to all the universities in the Midwest that were top in the field I was interested in and I was accepted in one of the four I applied; Indiana University.

 

  • What are you majoring in?  How do you intend to use your higher education on your return to Saudi Arabia?

I am majoring in Higher Education Student Affairs which is part of the School of Education. Currently higher education is a rapidly developing field that governments and economists have taken interest in. The literature points out that there is a need for professionalism in this area and I couldn’t agree more. The economy is in the need for a holistic graduate that can work immediately upon entering the society. It is very important to note the sensitive role that higher ed faculty and staff play in an individual’s life,

Through my work in student affairs I have worked on projects that focus on students extracurricular skills, this helped develop my main research interest which is student adjustment and development. The main goal behind the PhD was to enhance my experience by learning more about theories and practiced methods that I could benefit from and use when I return to work in Saudi Arabia.

  • What have you noticed as the biggest contrasts between educational styles in the United States as compared to Saudi Arabia?

I have noticed that higher education in the US is more of a lifestyle where you live and breathe books, papers, conferences, study groups..etc.  Back home I felt that university to me was a responsibility like a job or basic school where attendance is required but then after 2 or 4 pm, the day is done and other aspects of life take over.

This is more or less enhanced by the fact that higher education is socially considered a turning point for most people in the United States where moving out of the family house into dorms is the norm whereas in Saudi Arabia, unless married, very few leave the state of dependency.

  • How do you find the US education system?  What’s life like for you at a large University?  Was it a big transition adapting to the diversity and having not only other international students but male and female students in your classes?  phd-symbols

I think there is an educational system set for every need and ability. When I was looking for universities I was told by many to choose one in the UK because of the closer distance to Saudi, the fact that the time period to get a PhD is less and that they require no graduate standardized tests. The main reason that I stuck to my decision was that most (if not all) university programs I looked at required a minimum of courses. I felt that especially since I was venturing into a new field that I would need some classes that allowed me to read and research different fields. This was the gap I was looking to fill. I worked in Student affairs for a long time, but I believe that to achieve productive quality work a person must now about all the dynamics of the institute he or she is working in. Knowing what others did in your field will help you see the overall picture and make clearer decisions for the benefit of the whole institution.

Indiana University Bloomington has a fairly large campus with more than 5,941international students.  However I am the only international student in my cohort. I was also the only married female with kids. They were all nice and friendly but it was not easy to relate to anyone. I am on a scholarship and they all have graduate assistantships. I have to go back home immediate after class for my kids and they went out together after work. But it was very comforting to know that we were all there with more or less the same background experience. And we were all from different parts of higher education learning about the other parts together. In regards to dealing with male faculty and students I admit I was a bit timid. I did try something to help me – I gave them a neutral status – hahaha – I de-gendered them all! It was actually a method that worked really well with me. I was already intimidated by being outside my comfort zone I really did not need that extra stress!!

  • What kind of adjustments, if any, have you made while studying in the United States?

single parenting     Plenty! During my first year in the US I was on my own with my two children. My husband stayed behind because of his job. I had many turning points in my life and this certainly was one of the major ones. I had to learn to be available as I could not depend on anyone but myself when it comes to my children and their needs. I learned to budget (!) and compare prices. I wasn’t driving when I first arrived and taking the bus was frightening. I had a bike which I used for the first few months until a rainy day where I was forced to use the number 9 bus – I even called my friends in Saudi to let them know about my 10 minute adventure! It was a journey for me, I have never felt so vulnerable, I learned to ask for help which was very difficult for me. I always had help available: my driver, maid, my mother, sister, grandmother… I was never in need to go out and ask for assistance.

I believe that I have changed and am progressing to a more independent nature. I feel more confident about making my own decisions.  If anything I realized how much I took for granted. I think like anyone I wanted to experience a different life and was keen on leaving my comfort zone and starting my adventure. I am enjoying my adventure but with an added feeling of looking forward towards the ending and returning home.

One of the most important changes that happened to me is on the personal side. My husband and I decided at the beginning that it would be best if he stayed in Saudi while I left with the kids and did my best to finish as soon as possible. It was a difficult decision but we decided to go for it for a year and if it didn’t work out we would have to give up something. That whole academic year was the toughest challenge of my life. I realized the importance of a family being together. I realized that while independence was a gift it did not mean detaching yourself. My children needed their father; I needed my husband’s support. I realized that needing him was not a weakness. I grew up with a lot of feminist books and always wanted to prove that I can exist on my own. I still think it is important to be strong however a partnership cans the best place to derive strength from. My husband has generously left his job and joined us now. He is discovering new interests and working on a non-degree program. I am very blessed

  • What do you see as some of the biggest differences between your life in Saudi Arabia and now as a student in the United States?  Please explain.

My life in Saudi was hectic! I worked long hours, volunteered at my children’s school, participated in social events, always on lookout for new extracurricular activities for the kids, I was always pushing for time for my husband, parents, grandmother, siblings all that while trying to maintain the best acceptable social life I could! It was crazy, I had so many things to do and was home very little.

Now? well Bloomington is a very calm and peaceful place and it kind of rubbed off on me. My children still have their after school activities which is great for them. We have more family time than we ever had before. We have movie nights at home around a fire. We have small Arab gathering almost every other week. My husband and I have peaceful mornings where we go out and walk.

  • What are you missing most about Saudi Arabia?  What are you enjoying most while studying in the United States?  grandmother love

I miss my family, my grandmother lived close by to me and I visited her as frequently as possible. Her windows bring in a beautiful breeze even on the hottest days. She would tell me stories or talk about a soap she was watching. I miss her tremendously.

I miss my sisters!!!

In general I miss the social life and the easiness of becoming part of a social circle. I feel that I am experiencing this alienation because I am a foreigner here and every time I meet someone I take time to introduce myself and my background not that I don’t enjoy that but I do miss the familiarity. On the other hand I have more time to myself and my small family. I have been able to explore my own individuality; I make my decisions without too many outside factors influencing my opinion. In the end there are two things that are very important to me now; my family and my studies.

  • What do you think will be the biggest adjustments for you when you complete your US studies and return to Saudi Arabia?

I have been through this adjustment process when I was young, this was when my father received his PhD and we returned to Makkah. It was not easy and it was a tough road, but with support and understanding from my parents I was able to face the differences. But when I think about it now and how it will be after I return, I don’t feel any fear.  I am actually thinking on how I can keep some of the independent lifestyle I have here. In your blog you mentioned the washing machines and the dependency on maids. I laughed thinking if I could depend on myself and have my home all to myself; that would be amazing.

I don’t fear people reaction much. I think this is attributed to the fact that Saudi’s (in Jeddah specifically) have a more understand view of cultural and social differences. I have been criticized of being an optimist when it comes to my view of Saudi. But I truly believe that we have developed and moved forward and will work to make a better life for each other. Lots of disasters and difficulties in the society have led to self-initiated changes. That’s the spark that we needed and through education ourselves we must work on bettering ourselves for the sake of bettering our society.

  • Naturally I must ask, since you are a female student, (a) are you accompanied by a mahrem while in the US and (b) do you drive while you are in the United States?

car keys   I was accompanied by my husband when I first arrived; he did go back but visited every couple of months. After convincing my family my younger brother joined me for a short while, he was accepted in a university in the US and the UK but believe it or not he returned to Saudi because he could never feel at home anywhere else.

In regards to driving I was very scared of the whole experience and as soon as I got to Bloomington I was sent the booklet and some helpful hints for the writing test! I guess the ladies were excited on introducing me to driving. I took my time though and after I passed the test I needed to wait six months before I took my driving test because I had no previous license which was fine for me I was not looking forward to driving during rain or on icy roads. Once my husband was here he found me a driving instructor (saying that he couldn’t do it and that I needed someone with more professional teaching skills, I think he was just afraid I would use his car to learn!!) anyway I passed the test and received my license within three weeks. I do have to say that I still ask my husband to drive me everywhere (Saudi habit) and I only drive when I absolutely have to. I walk most of the time – I don’t get to do that back home so I try to enjoy myself as much as I can.

 

  • Do you feel like you have been accepted and warmly welcomed as a Saudi student in the United States?  Why or why not?  hoosiers

Bloomington is a funny place in Indiana. It is the most culturally diverse town in Indiana. I think that everyone here is more or less accepted and free to be themselves.

Before I came to the B-town I emailed a lot of people! I reached out to a moms group which helped me in locating the best schools. The department’s assistant was great in introducing me to the right people.  Everyone that I talked to was really helpful. When I got here my advisor did a great job in welcoming me and gaining my trust, he works with many international students and I think my fears were things that he worked with before. He was my rock.

I have lovely Kuwait neighbors who have been wonderful and supportive.

As a Saudi student I must admit that I did not find much support from the Saudi society. After all I was without my husband so they really didn’t know I was there. Once I became familiar with my surrounding, I would go up to Saudi students that looked new and would ask them if I could help them in anyway. I met and made friends with a lot of Saudi’s that way. I think that was how one day I woke up to find myself nominated as the Saudi Club president! I declined though because I didn’t want anything to take me away from my kids and studies – I was hardly able to juggle those two things.

  • Has it been easy to make friends with non-Saudis and non-Arabs?

I can’t say it was easy and I can’t say it was hard. I am a very social person and tend to say Salam to people I meet and introduce myself. At the beginning I kept to myself and my Kuwaiti neighbor was probably the only person I knew. I then started to meet moms of my children’s friends which was a great thing. They were there for me and I am very grateful to them. I have made many friends after that as I gained confidence and became more adjusted. My husband and I joined many social groups which increased our social circle. 

  • How has your lifestyle or customs changed, if any, while being a student in the United States?

Like I mentioned before I am very much relaxed now, I have my studies and my small family to take care of. I take every day as it comes. I don’t plan much. I feel as though I am on vacation sometimes!! This does not apply to the end of semesters by the way!

  • Please share a few of your favorite experiences as a Saudi student in the United States.

us-saudi-flags   I am very happy to be representing my country. I love clarifying misunderstandings and sharing experiences. Listening to others and realizing how we are all more or less the same. I once heard someone say that we are all foreigners. That is such a true statement.

One event I can remember was when I was asked to give a presentation about Saudi Arabia during the Saudi national day. I was never so proud of being a Saudi more than that day. I started of the presentation with the national anthem, everyone joined. The proud faces and enthusiastic voices were very moving.

 

  • What have been some of the challenges you have faced since being in the United States?  How have you overcome these challenges?

One of the things that I still struggle with is my hijab. People are curious and I find it difficult to handle all the staring and turning of heads. I don’t know if I have overcome it completely but I can say that I am more confident as time goes by. The most difficult part of the challenge knows that I am being judged according to my appearance. I wear my hijabs different every time just so that I leave people guessing which can actually be fun. People now come up and ask my husband and I where we are from. We get very interesting guesses!

  • What advice do you have for other Saudi students and especially female students who are studying abroad?  How can they make their educational experience the most positive?

Get to know the people around you. Learn from them. Do not isolate yourselves and allow different people to come in contact with you. I have seen students that spend more than a year in the US and still struggle with communicating and adjusting. Join clubs, volunteer, go to study groups, learn about others talk about yourself. Most important be simple. Do not worry about your typos, or how you might be understood or what one would think of you if you did something. And as I always tell my brothers have fun but be careful!

Being abroad is an opportunity to gain new experiences and learn more about you. Don’t waste it!

  • Have you been to the United States before?  What is your view of Americans as compared to Saudis?  Is it true Americans are more open but Saudis are more hospitable?

I grew up in the midwest and spent a few vacations there after we returned to live in Saudi.

 Americans and Saudis are different like any other culture is different to another. I even feel the Gulf States are very different to an extent too. However I do feel there is a more simplicity to the American Culture in comparison to the perfection that I see many Saudis seek. I would relate that theory to the openness and hospitality issue. I found both cultures display the same generosity and warmth but with varying degrees. Americans are more honest about their priorities and value their time and schedule. Surprising them with a visit would not be suggested. Saudi people on the other hand would cancel their appointments and call for catering even if it was a difficult time.

  • How supportive has your family been about you studying abroad?  family first

First of all I am very blessed to have the support of my father and husband when it came to my career. From the time my father told me that I was a good writer and I shouldn’t waste my time in a science major I knew that he always took my happiness seriously. When I received my scholarship he encouraged me to apply to universities and go ahead with the process, “You never know what will happen just go ahead and do it!”Alhamdulliah I did. My husband has been my support from day one. He never let me miss an opportunity. I am thankful for having him in my life. My family has always been a supporter of education in fact my mother will be finished with her qualification exams soon! Go Mama!! I am very blessed Mashala.

My husband and I are working hard on helping each other study after all we are the working kind where after the kids sleep it means its grownup time and we go out, socialize or just watch a movie. Now we have to help each other find quiet time and take turns putting the kids to sleep when the other has a deadline. Its great education for us!!

  • How do you feel studying abroad and specifically in America has changed you?

I have matured and I like to think that I am more careful and perceptive about my decisions. I give myself more time to think and rationalize and I allow myself to make mistakes and learn from them. I know I am being very theoretical, I am after all studying for a degree in Philosophy!!

  • Is there anything additional you’d like to share?

I care very much about student development and understand the importance of adjustment. I believe that a happy student is a successful student. I would be very happy to help as much as I can student that are facing difficulties with their surroundings and in need of assistance.

  • Thanks again for this interview and I wish you all the best in your studies and future endeavors.

 

Thank you so much for this opportunity. I have to say that I loved answering your questions more than writing my papers!

 

 positive

 

 

For the number of international students at IUB:

(2012) Another record year for international student enrollment reported at Indiana University. Retrieved from: http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/23098.html

 

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IU Hoosiers image: coolspotters.com

Family First image: familiesfirstcolorado.org

Be positive image: lifereflexology.blogspot.com

 

 

 

Saudi Arabia: The Other Side of Travel

returning home

travmonkey.com

 

 

Whether an expatriate or a Saudi, travel outside of the Kingdom is a fun and exciting affair.  It’s pretty common for most expatriates and Saudis to travel out of the Kingdom for one to three months during the height of the heat when school is out.  It’s a welcome break away for everyone!

However, at some point it is time to return and that is when one must be prepared for some surprises or what I like to refer to as ‘the other side of travel.’

Don’t be surprised if you return after an absence of sixty days or more to find that your internet account  has been disconnected or even to discover that your bank account or credit cards have been frozen.  For some reason, this is a fairly common happening in the Kingdom after an absence.

Utilities and internet can get easily turned back on after a few phone calls and perhaps having to pay a personal visit to the place of business.  If ones bank accounts were frozen then that will certainly require a visit to the bank.  Don’t forget to take all your important documentation (iqama, passport, ID card, etc.) with you when going.   Talking to the bank prior to departure is no guarantee that your accounts would remain untouched.

In addition, it is ideal to have someone come in and clean your house thoroughly prior to your return due to the accumulation of dust.  If that is not possible, you’ll want someone available as soon as possible after your return.

Most expatriates or Saudis do not take their housemaid with them when traveling for an extended period.  In many cases, the housemaid will stay with another family until the sponsoring family returns.

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