Saudi Arabian students make up majority
Out of the 16,000 Northern Kentucky University students, 633 are international students and 450 of those international students are from Saudi Arabia. They are 7,000 miles away from home, sharing and learning in a place they have never seen before.
The students come without seeing because NKU goes to their country, city or village to recruit them. While international students are here, they share their stories and customs with NKU students and they make friends. They learn about engineering, finance, business, sciences and what it feels like to live and learn on an American college campus.
The Saudi Arabian students come because NKU represents opportunity and a chance to learn about American culture while working toward a degree they can use when they return to their home country.
Mohammed Aldenini, an electronic engineering technology major from Dammam, a city in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia, said once he completes his degree program he plans to work for an oil company, Aramco, that has been in Saudi Arabia for around 20 years and is now owned by the Saudi Arabian government. According to their website, it is the only oil company in the world that provides oil to Asia, Europe and North America.
“I decided to take a chance,” Aldenini said. “I want to work for a good company. I only had one semester left in school when I learned about NKU.”
Elizabeth Chaulk, interim director of NKU’s Office of International Students and Scholars, is how Aldenini and other students in Saudi Arabia learn about opportunities at NKU. Chaulk travels to Saudi Arabian job fairs to distribute information about NKU degree programs, extracurricular activities and about the United States to recruit students.
Chaulk said she researches what programs the university offers that need more students or more international students.
“We want diversity in our student body,” Chaulk said.
According to Chaulk, there are a lot of factors that go into students’ decisions about coming to this country and to NKU. She said she competes with other universities from around the world that are also trying to recruit students.
“I may have a European university next to me on one side and an Australian university on the other side,” Chaulk said. “Currency matters, political events matter and who our president is matters.”
Masood Almalki is a Saudi Arabian student from a small village of 500 people, Bani Malik, that borders Yemen. He is studying mechanical engineering and is president of NKU’s Saudi Arabian Student Association.
Almalki said the student association has 450 students who are active in group activities that include sports, volunteering on international day and coffee hours where international students meet other NKU students.
“NKU became popular because they accept more credits,” Almalki said. “It will be easy to get a job in Saudi with a degree from NKU.”
Chaulk said some of the international students may feel like NKU accepts more credits, but international students and domestic students have the same requirements for transferring credits.
NKU has an articulation agreement with Jubail Industrial College in Yuambi, Saudi Arabia that specifies conditions for students transferring into NKU engineering programs.
“We look at the class the student has already taken, the grade for the course and the course description to determine what is transferred,” Chaulk said.
According to Chaulk, the agreement with Jubail is ongoing and focuses on the classes that Jubail offers that are compatible mostly with electronic, mechanical and manufacturing engineering programs at NKU.
Chaulk said that in addition to the agreement, there are placement test scores, English proficiency tests scores and the type of classes students completed at Jubail that factor into how a student transfers to NKU.
According to their website, Jubail Industrial College is the largest two-year engineering college in Saudi Arabia. Students who graduate from Jubail have an associate degree in engineering that NKU accepts.
“Last year we had 150 students come to NKU for the spring semester,” Almalki said. “I stay very busy trying to organize the group. I meet new students at the airport, organize cars to pick them up and help with language barriers. This group is the size of my entire village in Saudi Arabia.”
Almalki said that Saudi Arabian students come to NKU from the east, west, north, south and central regions of Saudi Arabia.
“There are many different cultures with different accents and customs that I don’t know about,” Almalki said. “I want to learn about those cultures and about American culture.”
Aldenini said what he thinks is interesting are the differences between NKU and his college in Saudi Arabia.
“I had to learn that it is okay if you have to leave the classroom during class,” Aldenini said. “In my college at home it is disrespectful to walk out of a classroom for any reason while the professor is teaching. You have to get permission.”
Almalki said he enjoys the friendships he is making on campus.
“Now, when I see some people I can say ‘hey, how you doing?’” Almalki said. “I know a lot of people and everybody is so nice.”
“The international students bring the world to NKU,” Chaulk said. “We try to be the bridge for them to do that.”