25 Saudi Students join UAA this fall

USUAA representatives were very excited for the new students. Senator Daniel Ribuffo said that a lot of them are living in East Hall.

“I’ve had a few conversations, and they’re all very nice people. Most of them are excited to be here.” Ribuffo said.

Biochemistry major Charles Kalentik said that he hopes they teach Arabic.

About two years ago, International Student Services began to run ads in Saudi Arabia via Facebook. The program decided to because UAA has very few students from the Middle East.

“UAA has the very unique distinction of being able to accept students with lower English proficiency scores than most other universities, because we offer college (100-level) courses in English as a Second Language.  When this became clear to the agents who assist Saudi students to navigate the admission process of U.S. universities, we suddenly had 43 applications from Saudis for the Fall, 2011 semester up from only 1 the year before that didn’t meet all of the admission requirements.  We already have another 17 applications for Spring, 2012,” the International Student Advisor Doni Williams said.

Three students began school this summer. Abdullah Alanazi was one of them.

When he arrived beginning of June, the sunshine through him off a bit:

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“The surprise is when I arrived to Alaska is the sunset and I could not believe this!! My friend told me that I will see many of the wonders of Alaska and this is the first surprise. I did not expect it to where people live in Alaska and how they live here because I was watching a program about Alaska and that too much snows and the reason I had a conviction that there is no person living in this state!!”

He said that he was drawn to UAA because of the support staff in the International Student Services. Abdullah is pursuing a BA in Business Administration at UAA, and plans for a masters afterward, most likely in the lower 48.

In September, several more Saudi students will present in the Campus Bookstore as part of the International Study’s Passport Series. The series allows international students to informally discuss their culture and the experiences at UAA.

Williams and staff prepared for the incoming Saudi students last spring.

“A leader from the Islamic Cultural Center assisted us by appearing in a video presented in Arabic to help explain how students should prepare for their arrival in Anchorage,” Williams said.

Williams also plans to present a workshop for faculty about Saudi students and culture for CAFE, the Center for Advancement of Faculty Excellence.

“I want to emphasize that we are very pleased to welcome the new students from Saudi Arabia, they are only a small part of what we think will be over 300 students studying at UAA on student visas this Fall, possibly the largest number ever. We work hard to meet the needs and support the success of all of our international students, who hail from more than 40 countries around the world – they are all equally important and valued,” Williams said.

During the summer, the projected number of Saudi students was 30 – 35 students. That number followed the general trend of enrollment and decreased to 20 to 25 once school began.

“It is important to note that according to the current Open Doors report from the Institute for International Education, there are currently over 15,000 Saudi students studying at U.S. colleges and universities.  Some schools have 100s of Saudi students, so this isn’t a particularly unusual occurrence nationally – it is simply the first time for UAA,” Williams said.