International Educator - May/June 2016 - 62

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FOREIGN STUDENT AFFAIRS
By Karen Leggett

Welcoming Women From the Middle East
THE NUMBER OF STUDENTS IN THE UNITED STATES from the greater Middle East and

North Africa has more than tripled since 2000 to more than 103,000 in 2014-15.1 The largest
number by far come from Saudi Arabia, whose generous King Abdullah scholarship program is
now entering its second decade, but there have been significant increases in students from Kuwait, Oman, Iraq, and Yemen as well. More than a quarter of the 90,000 students coming to the
United States from Saudi Arabia are women. Although the overall percentage of women is not
tracked, U.S. campuses are finding it may take more than a simple foreign student orientation to
help them feel comfortable and welcome.
Women from Middle Eastern countries have many
different backgrounds. "Their identity is diverse-different countries, rural and urban, personal preferences.
Arab, Muslim, Middle East get blanketed as monolithic,"
says Lobna Ismail, founder of the training organization
Connecting Cultures. Not all women are Muslim or even
Arab, and not all Muslim women wear the hijab, or head
scarf. Nonetheless, says Karen Bauer, regional education
adviser for EducationUSA in Dubai, "Americans are very
preoccupied with the hijab. It is typically assumed that a
woman is forced to wear it." Sandra Tamari, international
affairs coordinator at Southern Illinois University, wishes
it didn't always generate conversation. "It's not relevant. It's
a piece of clothing. If an African comes in a kente cloth, we
don't talk about it." Ismail is fond of saying, "Don't focus on
what's on my head. Focus on what's in my head."

Not all [Middle Eastern] women are Muslim
or even Arab, and not all Muslim women
wear the hijab, or head scarf.
Wearing the hijab in the United States can cut both
ways. "Women who are not covered may be seen as not
having good morals within their own community, while
Westerners see women who wear hijab as repressed," says
Salma Benhaida in the Office of Global Education at Kent
State University. Saudi Eshraq Alkhabbaz, recruitment coordinator at Southeast Missouri State University, recalls a
small child in a mall looking at Alkhabbaz's head covering
and saying to her mother, "She is from outer space."
Khawla Bendjemil of Algeria, a Fulbright language
teaching assistant at Southern Illinois University, becomes
62  

INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR M AY + J U N E .16

fearful "when something bad happens in the news. I was
really scared when the Paris attacks happened, and I prayed
'May Allah protect us tomorrow.'" The university held a
meeting attended primarily by Muslim students after the
attack, giving students a chance to talk. It was during that
meeting that Muslim women, joined by the Office of International Affairs, requested prayer space in the student
center and more easily identified food options in the dining
hall, including labelling foods that contain pork or alcohol.

Integration Should Be Multifaceted
Integrating women from the Middle East on U.S. campuses must be a multipronged effort: predeparture
information that includes conversations with students'
families; orientation for foreign students on campus and
multicultural awareness training for American faculty, department heads, and service personnel (dining, security,
housing); outreach to and beyond the university community; and initiatives by students themselves.
Initial discomfort can be minimized by giving students
honest information before they ever leave their home
country. Alkhabbazrecalls one Saudi student saying, "I
was told I could wear what I wear in Saudi Arabia, but
when I did that, everyone was staring at me. They should
have told us to wear bright colors, not just black." Alkhabbazsays women should also be told that people will have
a hard time hearing them if they are wearing the niquab,
which covers a woman head to toe except for the eyes.
"They need accurate information before they leave Saudi
Arabia," advises Alkhabbaz.
EducationUSA sponsors Competitive College Clubs
throughout the Middle East to prepare high school stu-



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of International Educator - May/June 2016

Toward a Better World
Tech Abroad
The University of Virginia Seeks to Emulate Its Founder
Frontlines
In Brief
Global Spotlight
Education Abroad
Foreign Student Affairs
International Enrollment
View From Out Here
Forum
In Focus
International Educator - May/June 2016 - BB1
International Educator - May/June 2016 - BB2
International Educator - May/June 2016 - Cover1
International Educator - May/June 2016 - Cover2
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 1
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 2
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 3
International Educator - May/June 2016 - Frontlines
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 5
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 6
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 7
International Educator - May/June 2016 - In Brief
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 9
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 10
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 11
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 12
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 13
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 14
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 15
International Educator - May/June 2016 - Global Spotlight
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 17
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 18
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 19
International Educator - May/June 2016 - Toward a Better World
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 21
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 22
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 23
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 24
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 25
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 26
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 27
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 28
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 29
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 30
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 31
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 32
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 33
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 34
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 35
International Educator - May/June 2016 - Tech Abroad
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 37
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 38
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 39
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 40
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 41
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 42
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 43
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 44
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 45
International Educator - May/June 2016 - The University of Virginia Seeks to Emulate Its Founder
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 47
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 48
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 49
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 50
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 51
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 52
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 53
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 54
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 55
International Educator - May/June 2016 - Education Abroad
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 57
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 58
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 59
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 60
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 61
International Educator - May/June 2016 - Foreign Student Affairs
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 63
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 64
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 65
International Educator - May/June 2016 - International Enrollment
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 67
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 68
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 69
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 70
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 71
International Educator - May/June 2016 - View From Out Here
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 73
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 74
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 75
International Educator - May/June 2016 - Forum
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 77
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 78
International Educator - May/June 2016 - 79
International Educator - May/June 2016 - In Focus
International Educator - May/June 2016 - Cover3
International Educator - May/June 2016 - Cover4
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