- This study examines the U.S. educational experiences of Saudi Arabian students. Using qualitative case study and photo-elicitation research methods, this study conducted multiple interviews with 25 Saudi students and explored their perceptions of their American learning environment, how it differed from Saudi Arabia, and the strategies they developed to successfully reach their academic goals.
A sizeable sub-group of international students, Saudis are under-represented in the literature. This study is unique because it focuses on success rather than problems, and Saudi voices are rarely heard in studies about international students. Research has been conducted to understand the challenges and needs of international students in general, and studies exist that determine how to support international students, yet there is little that focuses on Saudi Arabian students and success strategies. This study fills that gap.
In this study, the Saudi participants reported that classroom practices and cultures were different. They discussed the absence of negotiation and sometimes found American instructors to be arbitrary. Other dissimilarities described were the gender differences of instructors and classmates, the presence of technology in the university, Oregon's climate and natural environment, and the availability of the library and other resources. Success strategies the Saudi participants developed included goal setting, time management, study skills, study groups, taking advantage of campus resources, hard work, and persistence. Two major contributors to their success were the natural environment, which they found to be relaxing and stress relieving, and feeling a member of the campus community.
Based on the interviews, two themes arose: the successful Saudi students who participated in this research are resilient, and they have developed intercultural competence. Resilience and intercultural competence are foundational qualities that enabled the participants to bridge the gap between Saudi Arabia and the United States, settle comfortably in a new environment, adjust to rapid-fire changes and challenges, and develop the strategies to successfully work on reaching their academic goals. The author recommends supporting resilience and intercultural competence by helping Saudi students develop and enhance their coping skills and offering assistance that enhances intercultural competence.