K-State club offers home away from home for Saudi Arabian students

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Whether students are from a foreign country and attending college in Kansas or just want to remain connected with their culture, many K-State multicultural organizations provide a place for multicultural students to feel at home. The Saudi Club is one of these clubs.

Founded in 2005, the Saudi Club helps students from Saudi Arabia feel comfortable at K-State. When the club began, there were approximately 25 members. Today, the Saudi Club serves as a support network for more than 200 Saudi students.

Coming to America from Saudi Arabia can be disorienting, said Mohammed Almutairy, club member and freshman in chemical engineering. America’s culture, laws and even way of keeping time can seem otherworldly to foreign students.

“Everything is different,” Almutairy said. “Many students have a shock.”

One of the difficulties Saudi students face is learning how Americans interact.

“The way you talk to somebody in Arabic is that you keep talking,” said Abdullah Alhaqbani, vice president of the Saudi Club and junior in industrial engineering. “Americans have such brief conversations. In America, you can not see each other for a week and just say ‘Hi.’ In Saudi Arabia, we hug each other.”

Almutairy agreed, saying, “We ask about your day and your family, even though I saw you five minutes ago.”

When Saudi students first come to K-State, the Saudi Club helps them move past this culture shock.

“When someone arrives at the airport, we will give them a ride and introduce them to other Saudi students,” said Mohammed Al Johani, Saudi Club president and freshman in industrial engineering.

The club works with the Saudi Cultural Mission, a program run by Saudi Arabia’s government, to help Saudi students adapt to life in the United States. The Mission provides the students with medical insurance, teaches them about American laws and acts as a go-to legal resource.

“About 80 percent of us are here on scholarships from the Saudi Cultural Mission,” Al Johani said.

Saudi students take a test in high school to apply for the scholarship, hoping to return to the Saudi job market with an American education on their resumes, Al Johani said.

“In Saudi Arabia, the first thing they ask in a job interview is if you speak English,” Almutairy said.

While they are here, the Saudi Club provides regular activities for students.

“Each month, we have a big dinner. We have socials, bring speakers, and play games,” Al Johani said.

While a majority of the club members are male, the 25 female members, many of whom are graduate students in business, also plan their own activities. Aljohani said the club’s female members hope to teach other female students at K-State about the lives of Saudi women.

The club often hosts soccer games and plans camping trips, which Alhaqbani said are popular activities in Saudi Arabia.

“Camping is also popular in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “Except here it is by a lake, and there it is in the desert.”

The Saudi Club will host a social evening on April 13 at 7 p.m. in the International Student Center. All K-State students are invited to attend.

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