Saudi Arabia/USA: Abdul Speaks Out About Being a Scholarship Recipient in the USA


It is a great pleasure for American Bedu to have the opportunity to interview Abdul, a young Saudi man who has a very bright future ahead of him.


Thank you, Abdul, for agreeing to answer some questions.  I’d like to start with a little background about yourself.  What part of the Kingdom is home to you?  Were you raised in a traditional or non-traditional family?

 Thank you Carol !

My name is Abdul, I am in my mid-thirties and single “yay”.

I was born and raised in Dhahran,Saudi Arabia. Currently I live in a Chicago. It is really hard for me to say whether I was brought up in a traditional Saudi family or not ! After all, it really comes down to what makes a family “traditional” or not, which may be vague. In order to clarify that more I elect to describe my family values.

      My loving parents are older, my mother is 88 and my late father passed away few years ago at the age of 94. Given that my parents are older they never had formal education when they were young. However, my dad abolished his state of illiteracy decades before I was born by attending an evening class and later in his life learned conversational English and Italian. My mom attended an evening school targeting illiteracy among women, she was super excited to be able to read, by that time I was a little boy. I remember every evening me and my two sisters used to do our homework side by side next to mom like study group HAHA ! She would help me in 4th grade math and we would help her in reading and writing. Education was something that my parents valued and did whatever they could to foster. They supported and encouraged each one of my siblings to pursue education and never interfered with anyone’s choice or major. As a result, all my siblings, 3 males and 3 females, are at least at undergraduate level.    


Intellectually, as a family, we enjoyed reading. A wide variety of reading material was available to us. A trip to the bookstore was a bimonthly ritual that my dad enjoyed doing. He used to take me and two of my sisters who are a few years older than I. Our elder brothers contributed a lot to our bringing up. They earned a computer science degree in the US. They were avid western music lovers “ mainly 80’s POP”  and used to have a subscriptions to “Rolling Stones” , “PC Magazine”  , “Mail order catalog” and few other periodicals that I was not allowed to brows 🙂 !!! Several years later I discovered the forbidden print to be “MAD”   HAHA



What is your professional background?  How did you become a Saudi scholarship student?

I am a young physician/scientist, the idea to pursue further training and education in the US was in my mind long before King Abdullah Scholarship was in the horizon. However, I am grateful and full of heartfelt gratitude to His Majesty King Abdullah for the amazing scholarships given to the Saudi youth.

What kind of responsibilities do you have as a scholarship recipient?  What are the rules and regulations you are to abide by while abroad on a scholarship?

As any other scholarship, the recipient is supposed to apply and enroll in educational program that is pre approved by the Saudi cultural mission and eventually, graduate, return to the Kingdom and contribute to the workforce.

The other goal from the scholarship is to expose the Saudi youth to a different culture, which in my opinion is extremely beneficial on many sides. Those young men and women who are studying in various US universities exchange with their American counterparts many aspects of Saudi culture.


How often were you advised that as a Saudi scholarship student you are prohibited from relationships with foreign women?

In the pre departure lectures I can’t remember that there was a frank warning from being romantically involved with foreign women!


What happens if a Saudi scholarship student gets involved with a foreign woman?  Is his scholarship at stake?

To be honest! I have no idea.

But from what I heard I know that some students got married or became seriously involved while being on scholarship but I don’t know if there were any consequences that have occurred to anyone.    


In your view, why do some Saudi men on scholarships choose to go ahead and marry a foreign woman?

Well, I have to say that due to the nature of my training and the age gap I rarely see an undergraduate Saudi student and I feel I’m out of their loop. But as a personal opinion: I think as any other young students attending college it is not uncommon for social interactions between genders to take place. Whether it is just friendship or something more intimate and romantic. I cannot generalize why a Saudi student might choose to be  involved.


What kind of warning signs should alert a woman that her Saudi may not be serious about a lasting relationship

The following advice applies to any relationship whether he is a Saudi or not.

I can’t point out certain warning signs. What I would say is trust your “gut feeling”. Be blunt and ask!  Simply.

On another note, I noticed that there were several young American women were in a relationship with Saudis and now they are left alone. I do sympathize with all these women. And I hope for all of them to find resolution.



Because the culture is so different between Saudi Arabia and the West with segregation being the norm in Saudi Arabia, what kind of impression may a Saudi guy receive of Western woman?  Do you think Western woman have the reputation of being loose and having less morals?

I wish if I can answer this question on the behalf of the Saudi youngsters !

The way I was raised, as you may know me Carol! Is to respect anyone regardless of their characteristics. I have never been judgmental toward what is the norm, personally I think that America is conservative as compared with Europe.



What would you like Western women to know about Saudi men who had not traveled or lived outside of Saudi Arabia before?

I can’t answer this question Carol Sorry!



How can a Western woman know if her Saudi is engaged or even already married?

Hmmm… Anyone can hide the truth.


What advice would you give to a fellow Saudi student who says he has fallen in love with a foreign woman?

My advice is “be honest” and don’t take advantage of anyone.  And do everything you can to build human relationships. Engage with people communicate, share, and don’t hesitate to sit down and eat your lunch with your fellows. Nothing is more easier than sharing a meal to get to know anyone better. America is a melting pot so take advantage of that !

Please share some of your own views and experiences as a Saudi scholarship student.  What have been some of your best experiences?  Funniest?  Adapting to a new culture and customs?

The whole experience is great as I learned a lot about myself. I thought I knew the American culture well before my arrival but, I discovered I don’t. Now, been living here close to two years, I can say I managed to have a good grasp of the American ways. I’m grateful to the wonderful friends that I have made. They embraced me as much as I did and accepted me as their “Cool Saudi friend .” They loved my food and music, albeit I never cooked Kabsa I’m usually good in cooking Tajine a north african dish. In few words “I love my peeps”


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