A STUDENT PERSPECTIVE
Vlad is a Romanian Master student at ”King Abdullah” University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Originally from Bucharest, Romania, he is pursuing his studies in biosciences.
”I went to a university fair in Bucharest in order to look for study opportunities at universities located in places which are not very common destinations for students. There I met Bogdan, who was studying at KAUST at that time, and offered me information about all the resources that the University has. I considered that I could be very productive, and that the environment at KAUST would stimulate me to grow both academically and personally”, mentioned Vlad, who now finds KAUST ”a very quiet place, suitable for studies and research.”
When asked what he enjoys most about living in Saudi Arabia and the Arab culture, Vlad said: ”I like that the Arab culture maintained some values that we gave up on, like the respect for the family and elders, religion and lifestyle, including the national costume. At the same time they are open to technology and new discoveries. This mix of old deep-rooted culture and the cutting-edge technology, as well as the architecture and infrastructure make Saudi Arabia a very interesting country to live in. In particular, I have to say that I like the Arab food and the natural juices prepared here.”
Meeting people and making friends are not always easy when moving to a completely new environment. However, Vlad told us that ”at KAUST it was particularly easy, as all the students are quite young and open to meet new people. The professors are open to networking as well, because they come from all over the world and they are used to meeting new people. I have many friends of different nationalities, and except for some small language barriers, all of us have a good time together in the community,” added Vlad.
More than 4.000 km away from home and having a very busy daily schedule, Vlad still finds time ”day after day to keep in touch with Romania.” ”Romania is still the place where all the dear persons are, my family, my fiancée and my friends. I try to be up-to-date with all the news from home and keep in touch with everyone,” mentioned Vlad. ”I went home during winter for holiday and got the chance to go skiing in the mountains,” activity that Vlad really misses in Saudi Arabia.
When asked to offer advice to someone interested to study or work in Saudi Arabia, Vlad said: ”In the first place, they should be open to new cultures, to respect and to understand the different lifestyle and cultural values. They should be ready to work efficiently. The need for help and support from the family is necessary, especially if this is the first time one leaves their country. They should look well into all the benefits and disadvantages that come with such a decision, and do whatever they consider would be the best for their career. Personally, I encourage talented Romanian students to come and study at KAUST, in Saudi Arabia.”
A YOUNG TEACHER’S PERSPECTIVE
Claudia was born in the South part of Romania, in Balş, but brought up in Arad. An English Language Lecturer at ”King Khalid” University in Abha, Aseer Region, Claudia found as main motivation for being a young teacher in Saudi Arabia ”the opportunity for professional growth offered through this job.” Fascinated by the Arabic culture and traditions, which she calls ”quite different from ours”, another motivation to come to Saudi Arabia was for her ”the cultural diversity and the knowing of the ‘unknown’.”
Food. One of the things she loves about Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries that she has visited so far is ”the local cuisine, with its much flavored oriental dishes which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. From the famous Lebanese appetizers to the most delicious Saudi Dates sweets (that are always served with the famous Arabic Coffee), there is everything for everyone.”
Dress code. Another aspect that she really likes in Saudi Arabia and ”might seem a bit awkward is the way she has to dress up when she leaves the house.” ”An Abaya (the long black dress) is mandatory in the Kingdom – a sign of decency, simplicity and respect, but in the last couple of years wearing an Abaya has become very fashionable due to the new and innovative designs on the market. Women no longer wear plain black Abayas. Those ones have been replaced by colored Abayas, with lace and silk touches. A Hijab is also mandatory in my city, since Abha is one of the most conservative places in Saudi Arabia,” adds her.
Diversity. ”Today my world has been expanded beyond anything my small-town mind could have imagined several years ago. I have made friends with people from all corners of the globe, from countries I had known little about before coming here. Riyādh and Jeddah, my two favorite cities in the Kingdom have mostly foreign population. And even if the gender segregation is of almost 100 % in the Kingdom, I have also met some nice and hospitable Saudi locals,” said Claudia.
Asked about making friends in Saudi Arabia she said: ”is not hard if you are a sociable and open minded person, interested in knowing the people’s cultural backgrounds and heritage. ”Life in the Kingdom is sometimes hard because of the restrictions imposed by the Sharia Law and the language barrier, but the secret to having a great experience while in Saudi Arabia is to always have a positive attitude towards new experiences,” mentioned her.
Thinking about Romania, she considers that ”our country has always been seen in a very positive light by the Kingdom’s people.” Claudia adds: ”What they know about us is that we are hardworking people, that we have a great educational system back home, and that we have very good football players and coaches that have been working in the Kingdom for a while now.”
The advice she would offer to Romanians who want to come to Saudi Arabia to work is ”to read as much as they can about the culture and the rules of this country before traveling, in order to avoid cultural shocks (especially women), and also try to come with an open minded attitude towards a different lifestyle.”
PERSPECTIVES FROM PROFESSIONALS
Sorin is originally from Timişoara and works currently as an Associate Professor at King Khalid University, in Abha. He has received the job offer in 2009 and it took him ”almost two years to take the decision of accepting it.”
He particularly enjoys the climate in Abha, ”in spite of the fact that the high altitude in Abha causes breathing problems.” He considers that meeting people and making friends at the beginning was not easy, and that ”friends” here are always ”circumstantial.”
When asked how Romania is seen from the ”Land of the Two Holy Mosques,” the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Sorin believes ”that Romania is seen in a positive light also thanks to the Romanians living and working in Saudi Arabia.”
In terms of advice he would give to someone interested to work in Saudi Arabia, Sorin said: ”He/she should brace up for a very different and challenging experience and for seeing everything with tolerant eyes.”
Coming from Bucharest, Tudor has moved to Saudi Arabia with his family and is currently working as an Internal Auditor near Jeddah, Makkah province.
The main motivation for him to come to Saudi Arabia was ”the job itself and the unique opportunity to work and live in a multinational community.”
He finds the new environment ”very different from the one we were used to,” and considers that ”this raises some challenges.” Fascinated to discover ”new things about the Arab culture even after almost 2 years of living in the country,” Tudor mentions: ”the easy-going nature and friendliness of Saudi people facilitated the integration for me and my family to the new country and culture.”
They were ”surprised to discover that Arab people have a lot of information about Romania, with some of them following the latest news.” ”We met people who had already visited Romania, had a positive experience and they would love to visit it again,” adds Tudor.
In terms of advice he would give to someone interested to work in Saudi Arabia, Tudor mentioned: ”I think it is a good place to live, especially for Muslims and Arab speakers. Like for any place in the world, you should get informed about the country and the culture before moving. It would be preferable to get in direct contact with people that live in the country as they can give you insights about their experience and life.”
Adrian was born in Bacău, Romania, and is currently working as a research technician in Thuwal, near Jeddah.
”I always liked to see new places, new people, have new experiences… and here it is one of the best places both in terms of life and work experience,” says Adrian.
”I traveled around Saudi Arabia and I saw many nice places: the desert, the nice weather during the winter, the food, the sea, snorkeling,” Adrian adds considering that in the community he lives in it was easy making friends, as ”we are all very friendly and coming from all around the world.”
When asked how Romania is seen from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Adrian mentioned: ”I don’t know exactly how much Saudi people know about Romania but most of the times they will say: <<oh, Romania>>.”
He considers Saudi Arabia safer than many places in Europe and he advises anyone interested to work here, not to be afraid, ”it is not how they show us on TV!”
Romanians in Saudi Arabia
A STUDENT PERSPECTIVE