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Omar AlGhamdi (freshman, marketing) expected a much different reception than he received when arriving in the United States.
“I came to America, and everyone was very friendly,” AlGhamdi said. “A girl was waving, and I began looking around confused. I was confused and wondering ‘Is this America? No one wants to kill me?’”
AlGhamdi, 24, is originally from Saudi Arabia, but lived in England for nine years.
After his stint in England, he returned to Saudi Arabia to attend Jubail Industrial College.
A representative of Indiana University of Pennsylvania visited Jubail and told AlGhamdi that his credits would transfer toward a degree in the U.S.
“A couple of feedbacks from students that went to IUP really sold me on going,” AlGhamdi said. “Also a few family members said that Pennsylvania is the best side of America to be in with the beautiful nature, and the crime levels are lower.
“The Saudi Arabian government pays for everything. They pay for your tuition, they pay for your books and they give you $2,000 a month pocket money, and it is pretty awesome. It’s free education.”
AlGhamdi said he hopes to attain a master’s degree before traveling back to Saudi Arabia to compete professionally with his family.
“I’m enjoying this education to beat my grandfather,” he said. “He has a massive wealth and never rubs it in my face, but he’s been like a role model and a rival, which is weird.”
AlGhamdi said the Saudi Arabian media portrayed the U.S. very differently than what he’s observed so far.
“They portrayed Americans as horrible people,” he said. “Everybody was very friendly, and I was skeptical at first, but it’s a whole lot better than what it’s projected to the world.”
The students are also very different from what he expected.
“American students are nice and really are very good at studying,” AlGhamdi said. “They don’t get stuck on things that I believe Saudi students would get stuck on and keep up so they can enjoy activities on the weekend, but they really are smart and have an interesting effort put into their work.”
The university offers a culture very different from Jubail, where he transferred from.
“The universities in Saudi, they have an American style of teaching but with more relying on textbooks. Meanwhile the girls have their own universities in Saudi with no parties whatsoever,” AlGhamdi said.
The national takes on food are also different.
“The food is all processed for the masses,” AlGhamdi said. “Anywhere you are in the United States, you get pretty much the same food.”
AlGhamdi said he enjoys other aesthetics of Pennsylvania such as Pittsburgh. He said he enjoys the architecture of buildings from here and noticed how different housing is compared to his home.
“Houses here are tiny and much more expensive than in Saudi,” he said. “But the bridges and the old architecture found in Pittsburgh are really fascinating to me, and I enjoy the craftsmanship.”
Though there are these cultural differences, AlGhamdi said that it’s really not such a drastic change.
“The world is becoming a small village,” AlGhamdi said. “We have been hearing this since the late 1990s, and it’s not a lie. More or less the change in life by moving from one nation to another is not that massive. I guess what I’m trying to say is the countries that have high GDP are more or less the same services and products we have.”