Saudis Studying in the States


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Cedar Crest College is located in Allentown, PA.

Alexa Spinosa, Contributer

There is discourse over the role of Saudi Arabian immigrants, but what a lot of people don’t know is that many Saudi men and women come to America for higher education. While some are hesitant to let foreigners into the country, these students have earned scholarships and hope to further their education.

One of the many colleges admitting international students is Cedar Crest College in Allentown, which is ranked in the top 50 percent of the Overall Most Popular U.S. Colleges & Universities for International Students. About 9 percent of Cedar Crest’s student body is made up of international students, all of which are undergraduates.

Over the last five years the total international population of students on campus has grown at an average rate of 215.1 percent, with the largest contributor being Saudi Arabia with an estimated total of 135 students. Cedar Crest ranks as the best college for students from Saudi Arabia. I spoke with a few of these students to get their take on America’s culture.

Although their lives back home are different than the traditional life for Americans, there were a lot of similarities involving family dynamic and responsibilities. Coming to America for higher education was a great opportunity for these students.

Read the full interviews below:

What shocked or confused you the most when you came to America?
SALEH ABUZAID: “Nothing really because it had been a dream since I was a kid. People were not as friendly as I thought, but that’s really it.”
MUHANNAD ALSULAIMANI: “The weather was really tough.”
YARA ALRAJHI: “For me, what shocked me is the many differences between the US and Saudi Arabia, such as women driving, using buses and trains for transportation in the city, and language. There is no specific thing, but having all these differences at one time make it confused to me.”

What part of your culture do you miss the most?
SALEH ABUZAID: “The food, nothing else.”
MUHANNAD ALSULAIMANI: “The food, maybe. Arabic food is much better.”
YARA ALRAJHI: “I miss hearing Athan (a call for a pray from mosques in Saudi Arabia) and my family. In addition, I miss the private places for women where we can take off our Hijab and practice our daily regularly but without men, because here the places have both men and women not separately. But in my country, we have everything separate, so we don’t have to wear the hijab all the day.”

What was your family life like growing up/what was your roll in your family?
SALEH ABUZAID: “I was the spoiled little brat because I got everything.”
MUHANNAD ALSULAIMANI: “Responsible for myself [cleaning his room, doing chores, etc.]”
YARA ALRAJHI: “I grew up learning I have to be independent and strong women, who is educated. In addition, I grew up as a daughter and a sister who take responsibilities.”

What has your experience been like?
SALEH ABUZAID: “Pretty good, everything is good now.”
MUHANNAD ALSULAIMANI: “It is much better; the education is much better.”
YARA ALRAJHI: “Hard, very hard because it taught me how to be independent and how to deal with all my problems alone. In my country, the family works with each other usually and depends on each other when anything simple happens, but here everyone is an individual, which was very hard for me to adapt. Not only this, but also moving here gives me the opportunity to see that I am able to do more than what I think.”

What has been the greatest conflict in living here?
SALEH ABUZAID: “Missing friends and family and the food!”
MUHANNAD ALSULAIMANI: “To face the new culture was really tough for me”
YARA ALRAJHI: “My family, being very far away from them was the hardest part for me.”

Have you felt discriminated in any way since coming to America?
SALEH ABUZAID: “No, because I don’t look like Saudis [Most people think he looks more Spanish].”
MUHANNAD ALSULAIMANI: “No, not really – nothing specific.”
YARA ALRAJHI: “Yes, because I am wearing [the] hijab and [am a] Muslim. Sometimes, I feel it depends on the place and what kind of people there are, but in general, I live my day regular because I spend it mostly in the college.”

What are some improvements you think we could make as a country?
SALEH ABUZAID: “To me personally, I think they should let you drink at 18 because that’s what it’s like everywhere else”
MUHANNAD ALSULAIMANI: “That’s a really hard question, the education is good, the health is good too. The immigrants [situation] should be improving.”
YARA ALRAJHI: “In my country even if the king died or something happened, we don’t get affected because the country is stable by having another king at the same time doing the same roles for the country. However, in America, I feel after having Trump, the country is not stable because of the new roles and changes.”