Saudi students enroll with scholarship support

Oscar Areliz

Daily Sundial

The number of Saudi Arabian students attending CSUN recently increased due to scholarships offered by the their government since July of 2005.

The Saudi government made a commitment to education for its citizens interested in attending a university by offering 5,000 scholarships that include four years and housing, said Carol McAllister, assistant director of Admissions and Records.

The scholarships made it easier for Saudi Arabians to go to universities outside of the country. With so many scholarships available, students rushed to sign up, said Murtada Alismail, a student from Saudi Arabia currently in the Intensive English Program (IEP).

Alismail said the purpose of the scholarships was to help students get a degree, return to Saudi Arabia and get a job to help the country.

Out of about 1,900 international students that applied for CSUN, 65 to 70 applicants were from Saudi Arabia and more applications are expected to come, McAllister said.

Before the Saudi government promoted scholarships, the number of Saudi Arabian students at CSUN was next to none, McAllister said.

Of the 65 to 70 students that applied from Saudi Arabia, 90 to 95 percent were given conditional admission to the university.

Students interested in attending CSUN must take an English exam to evaluate the applicant’s knowledge of the English language and determine if it sufficient for enrollment in university classes. If the student does not pass the exam, they must go through the IEP, a program in the university that assists foreign students as they learn English, meet students and become familiar with American culture.

Once students go through IEP and pass an English exam, they can enroll in class, said Mayumi Kowta, director of Intensive English and International Programs.

Twenty-two Saudi Arabian students are currently enrolled in IEP, while the rest are taking normal university classes.

Students currently participating in IEP are expected to begin regular university classes in Fall 2006.

Most of the Saudi students are interested in learning health science, computer science and engineering McAllister said.

The number of Saudi Arabian students interested in attending CSUN may be due to actions taken by Mary Baxton, associate director of Admissions and Records.

Baxton, along with Kowta and Mo Qayoumi, CSUN vice president for Administration and Finance, visited several embassies in July 2005 in Washington, D.C.

Baxton said she visited the embassies of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates.

“I remember sitting in a room at the UAE embassy,” Baxton said. “They received information from home that scholarships were going to be given out. All I could think was we we’re here at a perfect time.”

Baxton said she would make more trips to embassies as soon as time became available.

Kowta, who visited the embassies in January, said CSUN’s relationships with the embassies are strong.

“Just being able to have these students come to CSUN promotes world peace,” Baxton said. “It creates a better understanding of different cultures. This is a step toward President (Jolene) Koester’s goal of (the) internationalization of campus.”

The diverse population allows for more interaction of students, a better understanding for each culture, and students will also learn to respect each other, Kowta said.

Alismail attended a college in Saudi Arabia for one year before applying for the government offered scholarship. He said his former college was “nothing close” to the size of CSUN.

He said that were a number of cultural and evironmental differences many differences between the countries,

Despite thse differences, Alismail said understanding and adapting to them was not a difficult task.

“It is very different, but I like it,” said Alismail. “It is very comfortable here. I like the freedom to do what I like. I can adapt.”

Kowta said having more Saudi Arabian students attending the university would be important for the future international relationships between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

“It is really important for us to be sensitive to each other’s culture and welcome them as guests,” Kowta said. “They can even be a future ambassador.”

Oscar Areliz can be reached at city@csun.edu.