Monday, August 23, 2010

Advice to Saudi and Other Foreign Students Studying Abroad--Part I Chiara's 10 Recommendations and 10 Tips

This is a post I have been planning for a while based on my own experience as a foreign student, that of friends and fellow students, as a therapist/physician/psychiatrist to foreign students, and a teacher, supervisor, mentor, colleague, and library/coffee buddy. These experiences have given me some insights into what it is like to be a foreign student from a number of cultures, in different countries, and at different academic stages. This includes Saudi students on scholarship, mostly in medicine, but also in other faculties. The timing of the post was triggered by 2 things: Fouad Al-Farhan's recent post (in Arabic); and the upcoming start dates (late August for some, September most often, sometimes October) for the new academic year in Western countries.

Fouad's post deals primarily with how the Saudi student on scholarship can return and impact Saudi society, by a combination of skill acquisition and attitude shift, that culminates in taking action to share these, and act in ways to improve Saudi society. These types are quite universal in my experience, for students on scholarship or not, and whether foreign or nationals integrating into the post-university social fabric of their own society.

As a result this post will be in 2 parts, first my broader contribution, which Fouad's helped to refine, and then Fouad's more specific, but generalizable one, in Part II. Here, then, in no particular order, are my 10 broad recommendations for foreign students in particular, whether scholarship students or not, and generally for students away at university for the first time, followed by 10 tips for academic success.

Chiara's 10 Recommendations

1) See your university as a town (city or village, depending on size)

Explore it and take advantage of all the services and facilities your tuition has paid for. Get to know its ins and outs, and its people. Transfer from one campus to another if preferable, or socialize on a different one than where your program is located, if the other one has more activities and people you do or might enjoy.

A university campus usually has housing, "dining establishments", clubs, gathering places, parks, libraries, stores, cinema, theatre, athletic facilities sports groups, organized trips, etc. Taking advantage of them gives you a more rounded experience and helps you meet people.

There are also academic and psychological counseling services, medical facilities, legal and financial services, all of which you have pre-paid and should use as appropriate.

2) Look for what is there, not what isn't

You won't find Parisian culture in a town on the Mediterranean; despite Lyautey's best efforts, Casablanca is not Lyon; a town that has drawn the greatest Impressionist painters for its light may have precious little in the literary arts; fishing in Canadian lakes and streams is not like finishing in Tripoli (either one of them).

Try something new, something available, or more easily accessible (cost, location, customary) than in your country, whether it is a sport, a hobby, a cultural event, or a social activity.

3) Travel

An international student card, available from your home country, makes traveling as a student more affordable. Add to that proximity and visa facilitation by living in another country and you have every incentive to do so. By traveling--even local day trips, or to sites within your city--you gain a broader understanding of your corner of the country and culture you are in. Travel can also provide a welcome respite from university and student life. If you are invited by another student to spend a weekend or holiday at their home, or travel together give serious consideration to doing so. These are opportunities that are hard to replace.

4) Engage with the mainstream culture

Engage with your host culture even if you do so as part of a group of people from your own ethnic origin, whether new immigrants or born and raised in the host culture; with other immigrants or with foreign students. It is still a beginning and makes it easier to understand cultural assumptions local students may make. It also gives you opportunities to meet more people from the mainstream.

5) Do paid or volunteer work

Work gives you a broader insight into life in that place, and more generally in that culture. It is a valuable insight into interpersonal relationships that serve well, especially if you are to be studying again or employed in a cross-cultural environment. It can broaden your skills as a teacher, or mentor, or in performing a specific task. It teaches patience and teamwork in ways probably different than what you have exactly experienced before.

Try various community associations listed in the local paper, community outreach programs of clubs and faith groups on campus, the YMCA or YWCA, the local recreation/ community centre, literacy programs (there are a number of illiterate or functionally illiterate adults i Western countries), etc. For employment, depending on the country and your visa, you may be restricted to working on campus, or off campus in your academic program's related activities, or be free to work off campus in any job.

6) Be careful about political activities

Being politically incorrect for your home country or the one where you are is high risk. "What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas", particularly if your fellow students decide to share the information, or it is published, broadcast, or finds its way to a social networking site. As some of you know better than I, some countries pay students to spy on each other. You will be more useful in making sustainable changes if you grow safely in acumen and power rather than flame out in student activism. Students who wouldn't say a word in their own country, may feel wrongly that they are much freer than they actually are abroad.

7) Get whatever help you need--academic, financial, legal, medical, psychological, social, spiritual

Part of your university being a town is that there are many services at your disposal, and for which your tuition fees pay whether you use them or not. These student services are independent of the marks and degree side of campus life, and are legally obliged to respect privacy and confidentiality unless you provide a written release. It is a shame when students either don't know about the services, or are reluctant to use them out of pride, misunderstanding, fear, or stigma.

I once met an African woman in a university coffee shop whose scholarship had been delayed. She had been living in her office and sleeping on the floor not realizing that the university would make financial accommodations, and also has emergency funds, and loans available (often not well advertised to prevent abuse). I also recently met a Guinean grad student who dropped his studies to work full-time because of problems in his country/home; he is now getting advice from his prof and student loans in order to complete his studies.

No matter how well you have done academically elsewhere, academic skill sets may differ in your new country, eg the order of a physical examination is different in UK and US medicine, a French explication de texte is a unique form of literary analysis. Get academic help with these types of skills from seminars, tutorials, and academic counseling services. Language demands in a  setting where most are native speakers will be higher than where most are not. Both oral and written expression are important, and you should take the opportunities to improve these, including language labs to improve your accent. Major universities have international student services which coordinate the main needs of most international students.

8) Relationships--Friendly, Collegial, and Romantic--Work with the cultural differences

Relationships, particularly romantic ones, are fraught even where language/ culture is not a confound, and can be even more fraught bilingually/ cross-culturally, though just as, or more, positive. Whatever length of time you will be in an academic setting is too long to be without real life, including here and now relationships, no matter what long distance and virtual ones you are maintaining (also important). Friends, classmates, co-workers, and romantic relationships all enrich the experience of being in a foreign country, and broaden cross-cultural understanding in both directions.

Friendships make life infinitely more interesting and it is good to be open to forming them with others, whether others from your country, other foreign students, immigrants, or others from the mainstream host culture. Friendships have a way of growing exponentially, even for shy people. Having one breeds more. Take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves, and persist with various attempts until you make some. If you are cripplingly shy, read and do the exercises in The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook, written by Martin M. Antony and Richard P. Swinson, and highly recommended by colleagues, some of whom have used it for themselves.

Romantic relationships--everything from a flirtation to a commitment--make life infinitely more interesting, but can also be more of a roller coaster. This is where cultural paradigms and the differences will be felt most intensely and dramatically: taboos, and different communication styles, morals, and expectations are all more acutely experienced in these types of relationships. It is more challenging for those from a culture with no accepted dating practice, or those where the structures are very traditional and formalized.

A number of situations recur. One is young men from traditional cultures thinking that the appropriate romantic age difference is about 10 years, whereas Westerners view this as too wide a gap, thinking about 2 years is more appropriate. Also, depending on local ages of consent and the age difference, one can find oneself, either male or female, in statutory rape territory. So be sure of the real age, and my general advice is to never go below the age of 18 (21, if you are a grad student).

Another recurring situation is young women from traditional cultures wondering "how far to go", and if they want to remain a virgin (in the broader sense, and in the sense of maintaining an intact hymen). This is an important consideration, and a rather irrevocable one in the latter instance. Remember to where you are returning, and your own long term goals. Most importantly, will you respect yourself in the morning?

Peer pressure is just as powerful, prevalent, and often as fake as anywhere, even among those who pride themselves on their individualism. You would be surprised at how many people, men and women, aren't doing "it", whatever "it" is. Television, film, theatre, literature and the visual arts are all rather misleading about social norms, particularly romantic, family, and work relationships. No one in real life is quite that much of a risk taker, individual hero, and most are not getting so much of "it", whatever "it" may be.

If you do decide to do some forms of "it", use protection: from STDs (condoms) and from baby-making (condoms + something else). Most contraceptive methods are Islamic for most Muslims. If you are among the 10% who believe personhood occurs at conception (when the sperm meets the egg), rather than at ensoulment (40 days gestation, or 120 days gestation, depending on which Islamic fiqh), you are limited to barrier methods (condom, diaphragm, cervical cap, cervical sponge, spermicide, and in combination), and the Pill. Natural and rhythm methods are better for making babies than preventing them. If you don't want an "oops", be sure the contraceptive method is actually used, is used correctly, and is a highly reliable one.

Generally, don't transgress your core values--or be prepared to deal with your conscience if you do. If necessary or desirable, get help doing so or having done so--whether from the university chaplaincy service (including Muslim chaplains), the Dean of Students, professional counseling, or highly trusted friends. As many a student has heard me say "You don't have to live hanging on by your fingernails, you can have a more solid grip"; "There is no glory in NOT seeking help, taking medication, going for therapy, etc..."; "Martyrdom is overrated."

Privacy and confidentiality are not overrated, however. You should think twice about with whom you share your personal information, including Westerners who are not as free of stigma about mental health issues as television and film would lead one to believe. University counseling services are independent of the academic side and are legally bound to respect privacy and confidentiality (unless you are about to kill yourself or someone else).

Regarding academic and workplace (including "the lab") relationships, they are--in North America more so, but also in Europe--flatter; that is, not as hierarchical as in more traditional cultures. However, there still is a hierarchical structure. You may call your prof or boss by first name and joke around, but the power relationship still exists. Forget that at your peril.

9) Go where you are wanted and loved

This is perhaps the single best piece of general advice that anyone has ever given me, which was from a colleague and friend about where to invest my career energies (subtext, where her husband was the director--I didn't follow the subtext, and I was wrong). This means be with the people who are nice to you and want/enjoy your company; the workplace or volunteer service where you are appreciated and treated well; and, study with the prof and take the course where you will be treated fairly and learn something of value to you.

As an academic example, a South Asian student told me he registered for a class in South Asian studies as an elective. The white feminist professor had very distinct views, and a specific approach with which he didn't agree, and so he left. I once dropped a course because I perceived the professor would be grading students based on how hard they laughed at his jokes. I knew I couldn't respect him because of it; it would show all over my face; and I couldn't fake a laugh at his unfunny jokes even if I wanted to. So, I dropped it after the first class. 3 months later, I was talking with a student who was beside herself about this terrible class. She asked me why I had dropped it. I told her, and she was aghast, "How did you know? That is exactly what he is doing!".

10) Enjoy yourself!

Even if you have to fake it till you make it happen (a proven psychological technique), this is an exciting time in your life, and also a long time to be miserable. Sometimes a change of residence, joining a new club, finding a new activity, friend, or social group, or a deliberate shift in attitude can make all the difference. Many students find themselves liking the place and wanting to stay, sometimes after 2 years of hating it, and counting the time to graduation. In the meantime, staying active and engaged, keeping a positive journal (a nightly record of the positive things that happened that day, including positive reformulations of seemingly negative things; at least 3 items), and remembering the here and now, as well as the past and the future, are helpful strategies. Maintaining your academic status is essential, and more likely to happen if you are reasonably happy.

Chiara's 10 Tips for Academic Success

1) Stay on top of readings, assignments, and test preparation. You are bright, but not bright enough to make up a university course in the exam study period, and do well. Study in the library, you will feel less lonely.

2) Plan ahead, and use good time management skills. Tell your professor ahead if you have special needs, special holidays (eg religious), special absences (eg for high level sports), or the dog really did eat your homework.

3) Take advantage of the "How to" academic seminars provided by your department, faculty, student services, library, and especially language and writing labs. Those include ones on academic ethics, and plagiarism which can be cross-culturally misunderstood with very negative consequences.

4) Attend the first class of a course you are/ may be interested in, and judge it carefully for suitability (content, approach, pedagogical method, assessment strategies, sanity of professor) before finalizing your registration. If you make a mistake in choosing, drop it and add another before the deadline, or drop the course before the final deadline so that the course won't show on your transcript as an incomplete or a fail. If you are a grad student, be sure your supervisor is on side or CHANGE! EARLY!

5) Don't take any course without the formal pre-requisite. Everyone else in the class will have it, and many are just as bright as you are. Your marks will suffer in comparison, and yes they do matter.

6) Attend classes, prepare ahead, and participate appropriately. You will enjoy the course more, and learn more from it. If you need a favour from the prof, regarding absences, extensions, or modification of assignments, you will be in better standing.

7) Know your student hand book, faculty calendar of programs and courses, and university website as if they were sacred texts. They are your resource guides for a variety of academic and associated needs.

8) Take advantage of the advice of the Undergraduate or Graduate coordinator or adviser about courses to take and academic goals. Use favourite and like-minded profs for the same purpose.

9) Deadlines are DEADlines. Miss them and you are dead. That is Western time, ie BEFORE the DEADline. Apply widely and on time to give yourself the best program/course options.

10) Read Lakoff and Johnson's Metaphors We Live By to understand the key underlying concepts of American and Western culture. Then apply your knowledge. Mostly academia is dialogue, but sometimes it is War!

What advice would you give to others on these topics?
What experiences taught you valuable lessons?
Which aspects do you think deserve further elaboration?
Any other comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?

Related Posts:
Speaking of Condoms: Responsibility for HIV Transmission--Self or Shared? Gender Bias?
Advice to Saudi and Other Foreign Students Studying Abroad: Part II Fouad Alfarhan's Advice and Typology: The Fool, The Fearful, and The Hero


Wafa' said...

i love the list. Unfortunately i am not a student anymore, but i would never miss a chance to study and learn again :).

Thanks for the tips Chiara, they are realistic .

Chiara said...

Wafa'-thank you very much for your comment, and kind words. If you have anything to add or an experience you wanted to share, please do so! :)
Thanks again for your comment!

Anonymous said...

I'd like to add:

- Take part in student activities. I don't know how relevant this is to non-British universities, but student life here is centred around student societies. The societies are basically students with similar interests grouping together. You have faith/culture based societies, dance, sports, arts, departmental, pretty much anything. The larger universities will have a wider range of societies (mine, which is relatively large, has over 300). You can join as many societies as you want, and it's a great way to meet people you have things in common with.

- Don't stick to your own nationality/ethnicity. This is one of my pet hates. I understand that natives are not always the friendliest to international students, but that's why most universities have 'international clubs' - they're ideal places to meet fellow internationals and 'natives' who are interested in your culture. There will be lots of you (international students), especially if you're studying in an Anglophone country (I'm assuming between 10% - 50%) and when people from a certain ethnicity reach a critical mass, there's a pressure for you to 'stick together'. AVOID THIS! It reflects badly on everyone involved.

- This last one is specifically for Saudis - Don't try to hard to 'explain' your culture. There will be some aspects of Saudi life that will remain alien to many people in your host country and there will be some who'll just be picking for a fight (avoid the second lot like the plague). I remember a time when there were to Saudi students talking to a girl who was studying Arabic for her degree. She'd just been back from a year in Egypt and they asked her if she'd ever been to SA. She replied honestly that she didn't feel comfortable with the Saudi government's attitude towards women, especially the presence of the Mutawwa', to which they answered 'but they won't do anything to you because you're a foreigner, so it's alright' - not the answer she was hoping for!

Regarding political activism - that's usually the primary domain of native students, which leaves me with one last piece of advice - don't be offended if your country is in the firing line.

Regarding academic advice, all excellent tips. One thing that would be beneficial for international students from some countries to know is that, in Anglophone universities (and many others), you're expected to 'teach yourself' much of the stuff. What is taught in lectures is usually the bare minimum - it is then up to you to read widely on the subject and broaden your understanding of it. It may seem odd (it took me a long while to get my head around it), but by the end of the three years, you'll end up approaching knowledge in a completely different way.

coolred38 said...

Not sure about other colleges...but many foreign students at my college arent legally allowed to work. This has caused some upset because many of them are barely able to make ends meet while they are here on a scholarship for just the college fees etc. I would suggest any potential foreign student look into whether they can work or not while attending that college.

Chiara said...

Shafiq--all great suggestions, some elaborating on aspects of the post, and some new. It seems to me that anglophone universities are much more oriented towards more formal organization of student activities and clubs.

Politicking is a student hobby, and some do it more knowledgeably than others. At least in Canada, the national political parties all have outreach programs to campuses and the U of Wherever branch of the Youth Party. Particularly during elections they reach out to students and student groups. This may be a chance to learn about Western elections.

It is interesting that the kind of conversation you describe, between students of 2 different cultures trying to explain their cultures to the other, often reproduce the culture difference itself, in approach, rationale, emphasis.

It is particularly true in the British system that reading beyond the formal classes is even more essential than it is everywhere else I am aware of. The US and to some extent the Canadian, and from what I have been exposed to the Australian have more structured classes, and more "spoon feeding" but one is expected to read the core readings, supplementary readings, and then find more readings on one's own.

Thanks for the great suggestions!

I hope others will jump in too!

Chiara said...

Coolred--that is an excellent point. Many students are on limited scholarships eg fees only, or a small sum, and have to supplement family help with working. Often international student fees are considerably higher than for national students (justified by taxes paid for the nationals; and desired for increased revenue). This can be a real extra burden, and choosing a uni with lower fees could be a major consideration. Often even students without a work visa are allowed to work on campus, but in some places that might be unavailable due to policies to reserve on campus jobs for national students on work-study programs either as academic placements or as part of their fee-paying structure.

Great thought!

Keep them coming!

Anonymous said...

Politicking seems to play a major role in unievrsity life, even if it is a minority of students involved with the activism. All three parties have their respective societies, but they're not very prominent compared with groups like Amnesty International and Palestine Solidarity Group. Inevitably, this leads to clashes sometimes - I remember a demo last year by LGBT activists at a Saudi cultural fair against its treatment of gays and lesbians.

The ease at which you can get a job (or an internship) in Britain as an international student, depends on where you're from If you're from the EU, you're on par with British people - no papers required.

If you're from the commonwealth then again it's pretty easy to find a job provided you have the correct visa (which isn't usually a problem). The vast majority of internships (including government ones) will also be open to commonwealth students.

If you're not from the commonwealth, then getting a part-time job won't be difficult (provided you have the correct visa), but getting an internship may be.

The only exception to this are intelligence, defence and diplomacy-related jobs, which require you to be a British citizen.

And finally, if this isn't enough, many universities will have a number of administrative jobs allocated to students. International students tend to be favoured for these because they're more likely to come into difficulty finding jobs outside the uni.

Chiara said...

Shafiq--thanks! More great information.

I agree that the groups like AI, and HRW, as well as specific solidarity groups, and activist groups like GLBTQ and pro-life groups (the Genocide Project is particularly offensive for a number of reasons) are more visibly active on campus, than party politics or the concerns of most students.

One can often learn a lot from these groups; and benefit by attending events by the more reliable ones.

In France party politics is more active on campus as the faculty are in unions depending on their party leanings or memberships, and some student unions are party based.

The UNEM (Union National des Etudiants Marocains) is very active in France, and often leans farther left than either country's government. They work to protect Moroccan students in France, which is necessary, sadly. They also provide services to students like teaching them enough Spanish to make their way across Spain and home for the summer (many take the train rather than fly because of cost) with a minimum of unhappiness, misdirection, stress.
They are no doubt monitored by the Moroccan government, and limit their overt activities about their home country.

Their meetings, at least the ones of which I am aware, are that they are planned for 7:30pm to 8:30pm and start at 9:00pm and go to 2:00am, continuing on the walk back to residence. :)

Thanks again!

Susanne said...

Good list and interesting comments! I'm sure this will be helpful to those traveling abroad for studying.

Anonymous said...

Pro-Life? Interesting. I don't think there exists a single pro-life society in the UK - the right to have an abortion is not open to debate.

The UNEM is an interesting one. I'm trying to think whether there's a British equivalent but can't seem to find one. We do have a Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) and a Union of Jewish Students (UJS). Both I suppose carry out some of the duties UNEM does, but disappointingly, they always seem to be at war with each other.

Ah, Arab timing! I thought we Indians & Pakistanis were bad, but some Arabs really do take the mick!

Chiara said...

Susanne--thank you for your comment and encouragement!

Shafiq--Yes the Genocide Awareness Project show in graphic detail the presumed number of people killed by abortion in comparison to the Holocaust, Rwanda, etc. They prefer to put these large displays of graphic pictures in the path and sight lines of students.

They have been asked to place them and to move them to locations where people can choose rather than be forced to see them. They prefer not.

As someone who has had many a man and woman in my clinic office in tears over an abortion that they chose while students because of life circumstances, not to mention the men and women who have had they hoped for child be miscarried, I find subjecting students to such pictures sadistic, and well beyond activism.

Well one of the fun things about UNEM is they have factions within, of course, and people who stop speaking to people who do or don't belong, did or did not vote a certain way, blah blah. I think the good actions they take are when they stand up for a Moroccan falsely arrested, or a discriminatory academic practice, and certainly i thought the Spanish lessons were a brilliant idea. It is a high source of stress for many. When I went to Madrid for research, the hub organized on the train platform that I would travel with some Moroccans he knew who were traveling home on the same train. I was happy with the companionship, and they were happy with the interpreting services. Everyone arrived happily to their respective destinations. :)

Thanks for adding to this further.

Indians and Pakistanis...hmmm best not to go there! LOL :)

Anonymous said...

The Spanish lessons are a brilliant idea - I love Spanish, so I applaud all efforts to teach the language (even if it is in preparation for a single journey across the country). I think all organisations have factions within them - I just hope they don't forget their primary purpose is to ensure the welfare of Moroccan students.

The pro-life lobbying is pretty alien to me. If something similar were to happen here, the reaction would either be one of bemusement or fury - it would be like someone campaigning for women to be disenfranchised.

I was planning to spend the next year studying in Copenhagen, where I would have myself become an 'international'. I was accepted into the scheme and everything, but financial pressures meant that I took a year long internship instead. My original aim was to go to the US or Canada (UCLA being on top of my list :)), but your tuition fees and textbook & accommodation costs were all ridiculously expensive - Europe was meant to be my compromise.

RenKiss said...

These are wonderful tips. I would like to add on the romance tips. I would definitely say that if you decide to "it" ;) make sure to also protect yourself emotionally.

If you choose to do "it" make sure it's something you're prepared to do it and why you're doing it.

Always get information on STD's. The health center will more than likely have some pamphlets you can read.

Also in class, in my experience, I noticed that some foreign students don't usually speak up or contribute to a discussion. I would just say, don't be afraid to contribute to the discussion and give your opinion! :)

So that would be my advice.

Arianna said...

Good info, Chiara, I would add:

Become thoroughly familiar with the host culture via the food, because that is the core of virtually everything—sharing a meal.

If you are in the U. S. that does not mean commercial junk foods! Find out what the region’s specialty is, such as, a New England clam bake, southern BBQ or Tex-Mex cuisine.

Visit markets, shops, open air festivals, beaches, mountains, every sort of place where ordinary people of your host country would congregate to mix, mingle and learn about the culture. Student clubs are great ways to do these things.

Go to different houses of worship to see how other religions pray and have fun. Many have social groups that will give you insight into the culture. Yes, they may proselytize, but they will also respect your religion if you tell them you are only there to learn. Church people love to invite others home to dinner. ;)

Visit every cultural and social venue that you can including: Museums, concert halls, art galleries, botanical gardens, great houses of worship, sports events, etc. In the U. S. and the rest of the West these are often free on certain days or offer heavy discounts for students.

Chiara has already addressed keeping up with your studies. However, studying your host country is just as important.

Read which political documents are important to your host culture. In the U. S. that would be the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Iroquois Confederation Constitution as well as the Federalist Papers and the Rights of Man for a start. In the U. K. learn what English Common Law, the basis of American law, is all about as well as the Magna Carta, etc. In Germany, start with their Constitution and the Protestant Reformation. In France consider reading the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen as well as the Constitution of the Fifth Republic for a start.

Visit different parts of the host town, city and countryside including the best and the worst parts. Try to dress like a native. Blend in! For young people that usually means a pair of jeans, a tee and maybe a jacket and scarf. Find out what the average income is, from low to high.

As an expat, when you first arrive everything is fascinating, exciting, exotic. Then, it begins to irritate you because you long for the familiar. You are homesick. After some time, you settle in and roll with the punches. Take familiar, favorite things from home: Music, photos, letters, personal possessions. Keep in touch, but not excessively.

Check out Lonely Planet guides, written for young people and frugal travelers. They have a travel forum where you can get advice from fellow travelers:


That’s all I have time for today.

Haitham هيثم Al-Sheeshany الشيشاني said...

Gr8 points; wise and experienc"ly" carved :)


jaraad said...

Excellent post! I wish all Saudi students studying abroad read this post.
I have meet many Saudi students here in the US, since 2002. I would like to add that when the Saudi government sends a 17 or 18 year old student to Europe or America they need to give them some kind of crash course about the country they are going to and also keeps in contact with them. When an 18 year old from Saudi Arabia where almost everything is Haram (not permissible) go to a country where almost every thing is permissible a culture shock is more dangerous. Here is why. Four or five years ago many of the Saudi students in my university used to post pictures on their facebook having mixed gender parties, holding beer or sandwiched between two Blondies. These type of pictures were very common. Luckily, when facebook become available overseas these pictures disappeared but this doesn't mean the actions disappeared as well. My point is we can't just give tips to students, they are too young to think of the consequences of some of their actions. I also taught many Saudi students. I would say only 1 out of 4 of those who I taught was a dedicated, hardworking "A" student. To be fair also, I meet Saudi students who were the best example of how a Muslim should be.


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