Saudi scholarships support students abroad

By Facebook user King Abdullah

By Facebook user King Abdullah

Jacob Geanous

When American students graduate college they are usually guaranteed only two things: a diploma and crippling student loan debt. The amount of total student debt is now speculated to be in the trillions and has been a hotly contested issue in the current presidential race. Although student debt may seem unavoidable for many students in the United States, it remains a problem that pertains almost exclusively to Americans. International students, specifically from Saudi Arabia, studying in America experience significantly less financial concern and often receive government aid from their home countries.

Scholarships given by the Saudi government have opened the pathways for international education. The Saudi Arabian King Abdullah Scholarship Program, sponsored by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education, encourages students to study abroad by offering this scholarship which pays for the students full tuition, helping them obtain a debt-free degree. Suffolk University welcomes many international students with one of the largest communities coming from Saudi Arabia. According to Tracy Fitzgerald, Suffolk University’s assistant director of international programs and services, the vast majority of Suffolk’s Saudi students are taking full advantage of this scholarship program.

By Facebook user Saudis in USA
By Facebook user Saudis in USA

“Out of 225 [undergraduate] Saudi students that we have, close to ninety percent use the scholarship,” said Fitzgerald in a recent interview with The Suffolk Journal.

While offering a free education, the King Abdullah scholarship comes with specific requirements. To qualify for the scholarship, the Saudi students must enroll in majors that are dictated by the government. This is to ensure a diversely educated community of Saudi students that can improve the country upon return.

“They try to make it as even as possible in terms of bringing back these Saudi students so that the workforce has a lot of diversity to it,” said Fitzgerald. “I think Saudi Arabia is trying to do their best to diversify from just being an oil country to a country that has financial services and other creative industry that is something other than petroleum.”

While this type of scholarship has stricter guidelines than most, the advantages experienced by the scholarships recipients are ones that American students are not often afforded.

“The benefits are that they are graduating without debt,” said Fitzgerald. “It is an amazing opportunity. I think it’s a great commitment on part of the government. It was a very bold initiative by the King.”

A distinct pride can be seen in the community of Saudi students who look forward to bettering their country upon graduation. In April, Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Sad unveiled Saudi vision 2030, which is an initiative to remove the country’s reliance on oil, according to BBC News. This has been notably energizing to Saudi millennials who look forward to diversifying the country’s workforce.

“I believe one of the most important things we need in Saudi Arabia is discovering the raw potential of our youth as well as encouraging our social and communal activities,” said Ali Alhassan Hamidaddin, a Suffolk junior studying entrepreneurship and legal studies. “As millennials represent the highest demographic in Saudi, there’s plenty of talents and competencies that could and should be discovered, broadened and expanded to even further improve our growth and shape our collective character in today’s globalized world.”

According to Hamidaddin, he was able to experience opportunities that would not have been possible without this study abroad program.

“There were many opportunities exclusive for students studying abroad,” he said.

For someone who went to high school in Jeddah, which is a major urban center of Saudi Arabia, he never imagined that he would be so involved in a community at Suffolk. During his time at Suffolk, he was hired to be a commuter ambassador who helped off-campus students navigate a city he wasn’t even brought up in, became a mentor for international students, and join the National Model United Nations Suffolk team to perform at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

“King Abdullah’s scholarship was a key program in paving the way for my study abroad experience,” said Hamidaddin. “Globalization is at an accelerated pace today, and countries that dismiss the need to expose their youths minds on an international scale are definitely missing out.”

As Saudi Arabia continues to look to improve the country through education, Saudi students remain grateful for the chance that they are given to improve themselves and their country as well. Fahad Sultan Abdulrahman Elmoisheer, a Suffolk senior studying business, sees the scholarship as an investment that will continue to help Saudi Arabia reach its developmental goals.

“[The] King Abdullah Scholarship Program is one of the most successful investments,” he said. “These individuals of different qualifications in the finest and best universities in the world will contribute to the achievement of the Saudi Vision 2030.”

The implementation of this scholarship has brought great national pride in the young Saudi generation, revitalizing the culture of education and broadening the country’s talent.

“The exchange of scientific, educational and cultural experiences with the various countries of the world built a professional cadre of qualified Saudis in the work environment,” said Elmoisheer. “On behalf of all Saudi Students, I thank King Abdullah for his trust and faith in his sons and daughters. We will not forget you.”