Why Students from the Arab World Study Abroad?
By: Pamela Dimitrova/ Arab America Contributing Writer
The past decade and a half have seen immense growth in the number of Middle Eastern students completing at least part of their university education abroad, especially Europe. This trend has been fuelled by government sponsorship schemes, exemplified by Saudi Arabia’s huge King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP), which is set to run until at least 2020.
While this is both the largest and best-known such scheme, many other Middle Eastern nations – including Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Oman, Libya, and Iraq – operate similar initiatives, in recognition of the long-term economic benefits of boosting access to world-leading universities and international experience. And as perceptions of the benefits of studying abroad grow, the number of self-funded international students from the region has also increased.
Here are the 6 main reasons why Arab students choose European universities.
Different style of education
The educational experience is the main purpose of Arab students’ whole -study abroad- journey after all. By studying abroad, they introduce themselves to a whole new different educational style. They get exposed to different aspects of the field they are studying and they get to see how different mindsets from around the world view certain topics or issues. No more spoon-feeding and no more sleeping during the lectures. It’s a bit tough in the beginning, but it surely pays off eventually.
Becoming a responsible adult
Moving to a different country with a different culture will surely bring many challenges their way–the language barrier, culture shock, and homesickness are just of the few challenges Arab students have to find their way out. There’s no going back; they deal with it and this is what makes them stronger.
Among the challenges students face, there is one in particular that makes the biggest nightmare, especially for the boys. Living on their own and moving out of their parents’ house is surely more liberating, but the package comes with more than just that. It comes with chores; it comes with laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, and cooking.
As cliché as it seems, but the cultural exchange is one of the most important reasons why Arab students feel the need to go and study abroad. Apart from the fact that they make lifetime friends coming from different backgrounds, they are exposed to distinct cultural perspectives. They get to try new foods, learn new music and dances and get to know more about others’ customs and traditions — no more stereotyping. In addition to that, they get to represent their own country. If one Googles “Egypt”, all you get will be either revolution-related or Pharaohs. It will then become the student’s responsibility to stop the camel-related questions.
Curiosity about other cultures
By being exposed to different cultures with even more sub-cultures within them, Arab students start to be more open and familiar with other people’s different ideas and beliefs, especially since people in the West are so different. In fact, due to diversity, they stumble upon many people who are accepting of different others. While sometimes the Westerners stereotype Arabs in a negative way, still, there are others that are actually curious about Arab culture and embrace everyone that has different beliefs, traditions or culture. It’s a two-way process.
Going abroad, students are speaking a foreign language all the time, and that means practice, and practice makes perfect. If they go to a country that speaks a language that they don’t even speak, then that’s actually a plus, even though it could be overwhelming at first.
Also, by adding so much to their portfolio of experiences (one of the reasons why Arab students are one of the most searched potential employees), it makes them great candidates for many positions. Employers often consider Arab students when they look for cooperative team players, flexible employees or problem solvers.
Explore the world
This is probably one of the best reasons among all, they get to travel and see the world. The students get the opportunity to explore their host country and see different landscapes to the ones they’re used to. They might experience snow and extreme cold, mysterious forests, lakes, beaches or even volcanoes. Plus, traveling is not necessarily limited to the country they are studying at, especially if they choose to study at university in Europe.
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