Rahmah Ali Al Shamrani leaned over a life-size mannequin, which was eerily breathing and blinking like a person, and sheepishly adjusted her head scarf in front of several other nursing students at Miami Dade College.While working at a hospital in her native Saudi Arabia, Shamrani wears outfits that cover her entire body except her face. For her classes at MDC, she wears a lab coat — but also covers her hair as a sign of respect to her Saudi peers and her culture.
The biggest cultural shock that she experienced in Miami: women studying with men.
”There, we are not allowed to have male friends — only female,” said Shamrani, who wore a diamond nose stud“We cannot shake hands with men. Here, we study together. It was unusual at the beginning. Here, we have more freedom.”
Shamrani is part of the first class of students from the Saudi Institute for Health Services to come to Miami as part of a six-week exchange program with MDC to learn in health-related fields. This week, the students learned about monitoring patients using MDC’s human patient simulator laboratory.
The program represents a new chapter for MDC and illustrates the swelling number of Saudi Arabian students coming to the United States to study.
Last year, the number of Saudi students studying in the United States shot up 128 percent to 7,886 from 3,448 the year before. Saudi enrollment in U.S. universities, second only to Turkey among Middle Eastern countries, spiked last year after the Saudi government started the Saudi Scholarship Program, according to the Institute of International Education. Florida is second only to Virginia in the number of Saudi students that have studied in the United States under that program.
MDC Professor Carol Miller, who taught the group, said the students spent months going through a lengthy visa application process, where they had to fly to another city in Saudi Arabia to interview with several American and Saudi officials. The year after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Saudi enrollment in American universities plunged 25 percent and continued to decline until 2005, when participants in the scholarship program began flowing in, according to IIE.
The six female nurses and four male opticians who studied at MDC will complete the program during a ceremony Friday.
It marks an unusual relationship in which young people from one of the most religiously conservative societies on Earth are sent to study in one of the world’s most famous party towns.
”I wanted to experience a different way to do things, the way you teach here, the way hospitals are set up,” said nursing student Shatha Salem, 21, who has studied English since kindergarten.
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The rest of the article is moderately interesting, particularly if you enjoy reading about how Saudi women are treated like Queens, etc.
I think something must have gone wrong in translation and that the wrong word was used. Instead of “Queens”, I believe “infants” would be the more proper term.
THE ROLE OF WOMEN
The battle of the sexes, Saudi-style, surfaced during Miami Herald interviews with the Saudi students, if only in flashes.
Yousef Saleh Ghous, 24, left his 16-year-old fiancée in Saudi Arabia to come study in Miami. Ghous, the youngest of 13 siblings, was excited about his time in the United States, although he steered clear of nightclubs and booze.
”The difference [between the United States and Saudi Arabia] is the relations between a woman and a man,” he said, adding that men can marry up to four women in Saudi Arabia, as long as they have the means to care for each of them. “There, it’s wonderful. [Women] respect their bodies. Here, they don’t cover up.”
He said he didn’t see any reason for Saudi women to complain.
”The women, they live there like queens,” he said. “We do everything for them. Over there, we’re not scared of the government, we are scared of God.”
Abdulaziz Olayam decided he didn’t want his 19-year-old daughter, Somaiah Olayam, to come study in Miami alone. So he booked a flight and chaperoned the whole group for six weeks.
”For us, the most important thing is religion,” he said. “They have to wear head scarves and respect their religion, to be good Muslims.”
The female students said that in Saudi Arabia, women can’t drive, dance in front of strangers, or date or befriend men. In Miami, they have chosen to adhere to the custom of wearing head scarves in public. Once they get back to their Brickell Avenue apartment, they explained, they let their hair down — literally — by removing their scarves.
Maybe it’s just me, but I would rather be a free vagabond than a captive Queen.
Life in Miami is hardly representative of life in the United States as a whole. People in Wisconsin, for example, probably don’t go grocery shopping in a swimming suit in March.