The Lived Experience of the Graduate Saudi Female student

The Lived Experience of the Graduate Saudi Female student




The Lived Experience of the Graduate Saudi Female student

For several centuries, the female gender has been the subject of debates concerned with equality, access to opportunities and position within the society. In all these categories and other not mentioned, women have always failed to realize the full potential even in highly democratized and industrialized countries. The role of religion and traditions in subjugating women cannot be overlooked. Abdurrahman (2011) mentioned in his article that “family honor, veiling, and male guardianship” are some of the aspects that stood in the way of Saudi female students enjoying their full educational experience. Violating these practices, regulations, and traditions is normally accompanied by severe penalties (Clerehan, Mccall, McKenna & Alshahrani 2012). However, exposure to a liberal environment has a massive influence in changing Saudi women’s attitudes. Social agents such as the Internet, media, and peer pressure that were for the greater part absent in Saudi Arabia are readily embraced by these naïve women. In particular, Abdurrahman focused on the role of the internet and its associated tools such as social media, file sharing and educational websites in offering such women with learning alternatives that do not infringe on their domestic responsibilities (Clerehan et al. 2012).

In the thesis paper written by Al-Sheikhly titled Saudi Arabian Women Pursuing Higher Education at Oregon State University, the notion of increased access to resources and privileges in the United States is a difficult one for Saudi women to grasp. The paper mentioned the contribution of scholarship programs as influential in exposing Saudi women to alternate lifestyles. Ruth Gresham (2012) pointed out the importance of cross-cultural engagement especially when addressing the contact between Arabic and Western cultures. Her discussion proposed several ways through which the experience within a foreign country could be enriched (Gresham, 2012). The suggestions included conducting a thorough research on the traditions and communication styles within the United States (Sandekian, Weddington, Birnbaum, & Keen, 2015). Relationship building is one of the key challenges that Saudi women face when they encounter new social groups in the United States. In particular, communication problems such as language, symbols, and non-verbal cues reduced the efficiency of the American experience for these foreigners. Clerehan et al. (2012) noted that nursing students from Saudi Arabia experienced numerous challenges while residing in Australia. She offered several coping strategies including confronting the culture shock, immersing oneself in the tasks, and joining orientation programs (Gresham, 2012).

In their study on Saudi women’s experiences at a doctoral university, Sandekian et al. (2015) noted that the majority of Saudi women expressed surprise at the freedom across the genders. The level of interactions with male students in the classroom and school quarters was impressive. Even more surprising is the resistance by male Saudi students studying in the United States. Interviews of Saudi female participants revealed that the male foreigners held on to their traditions rather than conforming or assimilating Western ones. In terms of balancing various roles, it was relatively easier to do so in the United States than anywhere in the Middle East (Sandekian et al. 2015).

In conclusion, it is clear that the experiences in the United States were very eye opening and educative to foreign Saudi female students. Making the transition from a conservative society in Saudi Arabia to a liberal and urban one in the United States presents several challenges for these female students (Clerehan et al. 2012). Most of them are normally unprepared for the cultural shock. They are normally forced to learn new ways of expressing themselves, taking charge of their lives, and being independent. Various scholars have investigated the effect of insertion into a dynamic and free society. Some of the key aspects discussed in the literature can be summarized as follows. One, the social change is very significant to the female Saudi students. Two, it is important to note the different perspectives of the change. While most liberals welcome such cultural and academic exchange, conservatives look down upon such initiatives.



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Clerehan R., Mccall L., McKenna L. & Alshahrani K. (2012) Saudi Arabian nurses’ experiences of studying Masters Degrees in Australia. International Nursing Review 59, 215–221.

Gresham, R. (2012). Trusting Relationships: A Key for Cross-Cultural Engagement. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 34, 5, 491-501.

Sandekian, R. E., Weddington, M., Birnbaum, M., & Keen, J. K. (2015). A Narrative Inquiry into Academic Experiences of Female Saudi Graduate Students at a Comprehensive Doctoral University. Journal of Studies in International Education, 19, 4, 360-378.

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