Name: Metaeb Alohali
Country: Saudi Arabia
Major: Electrical Engineering
Languages: English, Arabic
I am Metaeb Alohali (far right above photo) from Saudi Arabia. I study Electrical Engineering and am in my junior year. I chose USD because I have always dreamed to come to San Diego when I was in high school. Two of my uncles have studied in the 80’s in San Diego, and from what I heard from them, it is heaven on earth. When I looked at the schools in San Diego, USD was my first option. I choose my major because I have always been passionate about math and sciences, and thankfully I still enjoy it. Since I entered USD, my social life has changed in several aspects. First, I get to meet people from all over the world and become friends with them. Having diverse friends made me think differently and better understand different cultures and religions. Second, I enjoyed joining the executive board members of the Muslim Students Association, Saudi Students Association, and the club of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers also known as IEEE.
Last semester, Fall 2014, the OISS at USD hosted the “A is for Arab”, a traveling exhibit that examines stereotypes about Muslims and Arabs in pop culture. The brilliant guest speaker Dr. Mietek Boduszynski (far left in above photo), a political science professor at Pomona College and former US diplomat in Albania, Kosovo, Japan, Egypt, and Libya, was invited to make the key-note speech. What made Dr. Boduszynski’s experience so special was that was in the Middle East during the Arab Spring; moreover, he was assigned to Libya when the tragic assassination of the US ambassador to Libya happened. At the exhibit Dr. Boduszynski spoke about his experience, some facts about the Arab world and clarified some of the wide spread stereotypes about the Arabs. After his speech, I had a great chance to chat with him and he asked my Arab friends and me to meet personally with his students at Pomona as part of his Middle Eastern Affairs class.
We visited his class in March and I made sure to choose a diverse group of students to go there, so that his students would hear different experiences and political views. Jamal Jamal from Kuwait (Muslim-Shia), Huda Kahin from Somaliland (Muslim-Sunni), and myself (Muslim-Sunni). Jamal and I first began speaking about our countries and the Arab Spring for about 10 minutes. Then, the students started asking all of us questions about politics, religion, culture, and so on. They asked smart and deep questions that indicate they have a very good knowledge about the Middle East. The students seemed very eager to meet Middle-Eastern students and get a personal view about the Middle East. Students asked questions about the current political events in Saudi Arabia and the region and our views about them. They also asked how we view our conservative culture and whether we agree with it or not. They had a little misconception between our conventions and the governmental rules in Saudi Arabia; for example, they asked why every Saudi girl that studies abroad has to have her brother or father with her. The reason is not because their families won’t let them, but because the government won’t give them scholarships.
It was a really great opportunity to go there and speak about my country and answer questions they thought were taboo about religion, culture, and the government. I was told that there are no Saudi students in Pomona College, so for some of the students I was the first Saudi they ever met which made me feel honored.
Studying abroad in US for me is a really good chance to learn about the American culture in particular and other cultures in general. Though, to me, studying abroad alone is not enough to get a good knowledge about a certain culture, it’s also important to make friends with people from different backgrounds and hang out with them. Since I came to the US, I learned so much about different cultures and eliminated the stereotypes I had. Also, engaging with different people makes me more open-minded to try diverse habits and behaviors that are not in my culture. Fortunately at USD, I rarely find stereotypes about Saudi’s. The majority of people I met at USD are well educated and have knowledge about the outside world. Another factor is there a lot of Saudi students who study at USD which made it easier for me to introduce or clarify things about my culture. Also, San Diego is an open and diverse city, therefore, the community is less vulnerable to believe stereotypes that are spread in the media and often discriminate against Arabs and Muslims. All in all, I will never be able to explain my experience in the US in couple of hundred words, but it is absolutely a joyful and successful part of my life that I will never forget.