Why did you decide to study in the USA?
I decided to study in the USA because I work as a teaching assistant in the Department of Public Health at King Faisal University. Studying abroad for master’s and/or PhD is mandatory for any TA like me there. I chose the U.S. in particular because it has the best schools for my food safety major, and I wanted to see its interesting diversity of cultures.
Why did you choose this particular college or university?
I chose the English Language Center at the University of Texas at Austin because it has an excellent reputation among thousands of Saudi students. I did some research and asked many alumni before applying to it, and I found that this school is among the best schools not only in the U.S. but in the world as well. Another reason why I chose this school is because it is located in Austin, the capital city of Texas. Austin is famous for being one of the safest cities in the U.S. Also, it is famous in Texan foods such as steaks, burgers, and BBQ. These factors played a major role in my decision to be there.
I chose Virginia Tech for my graduate studies because it is located in a beautiful and small town named Blacksburg in Virginia. This amazing town is famous with the beauty of its nature and landscapes where the green is always the common. I also decided to study at this school because the department that offers my major is one of the best departments in the U.S.
What do you like best about your program or university?
I like my program because it is going to help me become a better food safety specialist and that will help me protect the public and enhance food safety in general.
What do you miss most about home?
I miss my family, friends, and the food there. I look forward to finishing this interesting graduate school journey and have them all back together.
What was your biggest surprise about U.S. life and education?
My biggest surprise was seeing the politeness, generosity, and professionality of the people here. Although I was an international student, I have always felt like I am one of them.
... your biggest disappointment?
Thank God, I have not experienced any disappointment here.
How have you handled:
... language differences?
The instructors who taught me when I was studying at the English Language Center at the University of Texas at Austin have helped me tremendously to improve my spoken and written English. My friendships here have always been very helpful to me to improve my English. Thanks to them, they have made my graduate life a way simpler than I expected.
Although my government is responsible for supporting me financially with my tuition, health, and living expenses, I must manage my money spending here so that I pay my rent on-time and avoid any financial hardships.
... adjusting to a different educational system?
The system here is a little different than the system in my country, but I was able to adjust myself to the U.S. system with the help of my Saudi friends and the friends and classmates that I have known here.
What are your activities?
In 2021, I was appointed as the president of Saudi Student Club at Virginia Tech by the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission (SACM). The club members and I support hundreds of Saudi and Gulf countries students at Virginia Tech and in the State of Virginia as well. We aim to show the real picture of Saudi people rather than what is sometimes pictured in the media. We are passionate about volunteering and helping those who need it.
How easy or difficult is making friends in the USA?
I feel like I am an extrovert in nature, and I always love to make new friendships and participate in social activities. In my experience, making friends in the U.S. is very easy because people here are diverse and interested to know more about each other. The key in making new friends is to not hesitate to introduce yourself and just say hi to others because that intro could be a start of a great friendship that stays forever!
What are your career goals? How is your U.S. education relevant to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
My goal is to earn my master’s and PhD degrees in the U.S. which will save my current employment and allow me to become a better researcher and teach many generations of students back home at my department.
What is your advice to other students from your country who are considering a U.S. education?
They should always ask former students about their experiences before they start their journey. They should also consider improving their academic English skills even if their English is good, and that may include applying to a good English language program such as the one at UT Austin. One last thing to avoid is being only dependent on school materials and avoid self-learning as that may make your study journey a bit longer.