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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18 Responses

  1. Very nice post. My heart swells for the old aged but young minded father and mother. It’s their heart, mind and thinking that ll make change happen . Beautiful.

  2. Abdul is a very charming and quite congenial young man. He’s a great representative of his country.

  3. This was a great interview and post! Abdul seems to be a very wise young man who is experiencing life in a beautiful way. From his pre-dialogue, I believe he was raised by two wonderful parents who wanted their children to be respectable and respect life and others. He seems to recognize that each person is an individual when it comes to their choices though there may be similarities. I pray that his experience of life in America is a positive one and that as he has learned to respect others that he can help change the minds that others he may know in Saudi who hold negative views of Americans instead of viewing people (not just Americans only) as people just like we see our ownselves. I thoroughly enjoyed this post American Bedu 🙂

  4. Abdul is special! (but then again…I’m admittedly biased)

  5. Thanks to everyone for the sweet comments ! it is so joyful to learn that my humble answers are well received.

    I am going to take this chance to share a funny story.

    A lady friend of mine invited me to meet her friends and celebrate one of her friend’s Birthday party !
    I was talking with a bunch of guys and girls about my culture and language, one of the girls brought a napkin and asked me to write her name in Arabic, at that point of time my friend was in another room, so the rest of the group lined up to have their names written in Arabic as well when my friend came back and saw what’s happening she asked : “Abdul what are you doing?”
    I replied: I’m singing autographs !!!
    HAHA

  6. And do you have the Doctor’s scroll, Abdul? (Mother Hen Bedu smile)

  7. Best of luck Abdul. Stay true and honest. It will get you far!
    Your father reminds me of my father: My father has high school education in China. He taught himself to speak, read and write English in Canada after he was working full time and had family of 6 young children.

  8. You sound like you have a good head on your shoulders and good values and a great family. My husband also spent a lot of time signing “autographs” when he was a student 🙂

  9. Abdul,

    You are a scholar and a gentleman and it comes through and through in the interview!

    I understand there are over 130,000 saudi men and women pursuing their higher educations in the west. They are the best hope to influence and bring in the necessary changes in the kingdom in terms of democracy (constitutional monarchy?), human rights, women rights, religious moderation, etc. etc. etc.

    Good luck and best wishes, Abdul!

  10. Good luck abdul , What field do you specialize in ?

  11. I can answer your query, Radhaa. It’s radiology.

  12. I want your autograph, Abdul! 🙂 Cute story. I learned to write my name in Arabic a couple years ago when I was trying to learn the alphabet. Well, I learned how to write it, but have since forgotten since I didn’t review.

    Thanks for the interview! Best wishes!

  13. By the way, what other countries have you lived in? You mentioned only being here 2 years. Did you study in Europe any?

  14. @CAROL – 🙂 great reesidency, much in demand program . must be a very bright young man, wishing him a great future.

  15. Abdul, masha’allah, you sound so mature! I would love to talk to you about Saudi men in general (and specifically about one Saudi man), I do not have any brothers and it would be wonderful if a male Saudi could give me some pieces of advice.
    Thank you so much, Carol, for posting this interview. There has been so much negative spoken about Saudi men overall, while of course we all know that not all of them are bad people. Abdul indeed is a descent representative of his country. Wow!
    Abdul can we talk over email?

  16. I apologize to everyone for taking too long to reply to all of your nice comments ! It brings me joy to know that my humble answers are well received.

    SãImã Abbasi: Thank you so much God bless yours too !

    Butterfly Jewel: Of course I will convey my experience to my folks back home. I believe the world is becoming a small village !

    Jean: I am so glad that our fathers shared a common challenge, you must be so proud of him !

    Sandy: Thanks I’m just a regular guy ! could you pleaseshare your husband’s story.

    Honest Abe: That is so sweet ! The only constant thing in life is change and it is happening, slow ! Yes, but it is going on !
    It will be really interesting when I go back after spending a solid 2 years away how much change has happened.

    susanne430 : You Got it ! I will see with Mom hen Bedu how can I send it to you. The only country that I lived in is the US. I have traveled a lot when I was younger, I visited several European countries and one arab country “Morocco” I regret not been to east Asia.

    HeartIsBleedingPainButIamStrong: Thank you nice comments ! I hope I can help you. I find my fellow Saudi men hard to read at times but anything counts. Yes I am Saudi but I consider myself a Universal citizen. Not all saudi men are Bad, people follow a spectrum I guess.To be honest I don’t intend every time to be an example of Saudi men its never been my objective. Absolutely I will help you as much as I can.

  17. Abdul,

    I could say that you are proof that no Saudi under 35 should be allowed to leave Arabia. You seem to have a much better sense of time, place and purpose that most of the (much younger) Arabs that wander our streets looking for, for, for whatever.

    Abe, most of those thousands of Saudi men are pursuing more than ‘higher education’ – maybe ‘lower’ education would be a better characterization.

    Abdul, a question. I am one known here for my dislike of Islam and your prophet. And yes, I have read the Quran, hadith and histories carefully. So what does that make me? What is your opinion of people like me? I ask this because I feel that islam, more than any other issue or action, characterizes Arabs and Saudis (and yes, I know that not all Arabs are Muslims, only about 97%).

    You did a great interview, one of the best here at Ambedu (with the exception of the 6-year old – but we can’t compete with kids, can we?) .
    ..John

  18. Abdul, I would be thrilled if you could email me at l e i l i 1 0 9 8 at gmail.com (no spaces actually). Shokran kadheeeeeeeeeeeeer 🙂

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