The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have had one of the strongest brotherly ties in history, sharing the same core values and beliefs. Student Saja Alqahtani has made it a point to replicate that valuable bond on the ground during her time at the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU). The young Saudi enrolled in the university almost two years ago to pursue a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA). When she first visited the UAE with her father, she had no relatives or friends here but felt a deep love for the Emirates and considered it her second home thanks to frequent visits from her family in summertime and during holiday breaks.
Of all the universities in the UAE she had researched, she selected the UAEU as one of the best in all fields. She was accepted but once she started her course, she felt she might be the only Saudi national at the university and was not acquainted with any other students around her.
But when she kickstarted her degree and classes, she began making new friends, one of whom was Emirati and working part-time at the UAEU. “So I started thinking of working part-time since I didn’t have a job and I was just studying,” Alqahtani explained.
As she looked for part-time work at the University’ female department during her studies,
she came across a couple of young Saudi women, to her delight. They quickly built
a friendship before Alqahtani experienced her first International Day at the UAEU
and the creation of the first Saudi booth. A number of doctors and students gathered
at the stand to discover an array of Saudi activities and information. Shortly after,
Alqahtani came across a number of other Saudi students at the university, although
many of them had been living in the country for a while and spent their spare time
off campus with their relatives. “So there wasn’t a specific club or gathering in
the University,” she said. “But when people started hearing about us, we thought about
making something special for Saudi students where we can all be a part of the activities.”
She spoke of the strong brotherly relationship between the UAE and Saudi Arabia with great fondness, and highlighted the need, as Saudi students, to be engaged and included in student activities. After conducting a survey to better understand their needs, 15 Saudi students including Alqahtani created a WhatsApp group to organise activities in order to become more visible and active. Each student took on a different responsibility, from leaders to sub-leaders and photographers in each activity. Alqahtani was surprised to witness great engagement among all students at the university and was selected as a leader, based on her past work experience as a supervisor in school activities in Saudi Arabia, and in leading a volunteer group for charity work. The group engaged in a number of activities, as Alqahtani pursued her part-time work as an Assistant in the College of Graduate Studies shadowing Dr. Ali Al Marzouqi, Dean of the College of Graduate Studies.
She described such work as extremely helpful in discovering many parts of the university, as well as in finding out about a number of activities students could engage in. “We took part in all of them, whether International Day or others,” she said. “We were very active, and our number grew from seven students at the beginning to around 40 or 50 Saudi students.” She was thrilled when the Saudi Cultural Attaché in the UAE visited the university and joined in the activities of the Saudi Club she had established and had been leading for the past two years.
Alqahtani described her involvement at the UAEU as one of the most important she has
had to date, thanks to the enriching learning curve she experienced. From academia
to relationships in dealing with heads of departments, she spoke highly of the help
faculty members provided her with and in making her feel at home. “I felt like I was
with my brothers and sisters, even with the heads of departments,” she added, mentioning
Dr. Rashid Alriyami, Assistant Professor, Dr. Ali Marzouqi and Dr. Ateeq Almansoori,
Dean of the University College and Director of the UAEU Center for Public Policy and
Leadership. “They all have my respect, and they are my second family.”
Her master’s degree provided her with great experience, as well as her work as an assistant, which she pursues to this day, regarding research and students. Becoming more confident, active, and discovering many aspects about herself were also beneficial outcomes of her experience at the UAEU. Currently temporarily back in Saudi Arabia, Alqahtani is now excited to return to UAEU and pursue her PhD in Leadership and Policy in Education at the university’s College of Education, which was launched last semester.
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