From Arabia to America
Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 01:01
Since middle school, Oregon State University mechanical engineering sophomore Mishal Algari has wanted to leave his home in Saudi Arabia and study abroad in the United States. For the past year now, he has seen this hope fulfilled.
Long before coming to America, Algari grew up in Jubail, a city with a population about the size of the Eugene-Springfield area, in the Eastern Provence of Saudi Arabia.
“Jubail is different from other Saudi Arabian cities,” Algari said. “Different people from all over the world go there for work. Due to a variety of worldviews, it’s a fairly understanding and accepting place to be.”
Growing up, Algari spent most of his free time hanging out on the beach, playing soccer with his friends and playing video games, all the while trying to keep cool during the heat of the summer months. Located on the coast of the Persian Gulf, Jubail can get incredibly hot and humid.
“When I say [Jubail] is hot, it’s really hot,” Algari said. “From noon to 3, no labor is allowed in the city. My brother and I conducted an experiment one time just to see how hot it was. We cracked an egg on the sidewalk, and it literally cooked.”
Other than dealing with the heat and having fun with his friends, family was also an important aspect of Algari’s life.
“When I was a kid, every weekend my family and I would go to my grandmother’s house to spend time with my mom’s side of the family,” Algari said.
After Algari expressed interest in studying in America, the connections throughout his extended family helped pave his way to coming to Corvallis. Several of Algari’s relatives had studied in America, and Algari’s father, Adel, began contacting them to decide on a school.
“My cousin had just graduated from a university in a small Oregon town called Corvallis,” Algari said. “He said the school was great and that the town was genuinely a good place to be. I did a little more research on it, and eventually the family agreed it would be the best place for Mishal to apply to.”
Algari then began his college career here. While enjoying writing and reading, and considering being an English major, he settled instead on mechanical engineering. He worked hard and quickly made a group of friends here, and soon had settled down comfortably into Corvallis life.
“What I love about [Corvallis] is how people can express what they like and want to do and still be accepted without becoming an outsider,” Algari said. “I also love the contrast between Corvallis and Jubail. I love the rain and all the green here.”
Ali Al Nasser, also an international student from Saudi Arabia, also feels this way.
“The picture of America in my mind is that people are nice and polite and they treat all people well,” Al Nasser said. “I mean, no matter who you are, where are you from, the matter is you are human and respectable.”
However, both students also miss parts about home.
“Most of all, I love the food from Saudi Arabia,” Algari said. “Also, on a different note, there isn’t really any gender discrimination when it comes to music. For example, in Saudi Arabia, a super tough-looking guy pulled up in a car next to me one time rocking the song ‘Barbie Girl,’ Perfectly normal in Jubail, but in America it probably would have seemed comical.”
“What I like most about my country is that there I can practice my religion’s duties more clearly and regularly,” Al Nasser added. “Here l live in a community that has a different religion and different culture so there aren’t many. Still, I can do whatever I want here, because l believe in the [United States] you have liberty with most things.”
Regardless, both have enjoyed their time in America.
“My time here has been great,” Algari said. “Every day I come to school, I meet someone new or gain a new experience, which is the point of studying abroad — to grow in the culture, find something new and have fun.”
Ryan Dawes, news reporter