Confessions of a Saudi Diva: FAQ’s about being Saudi and Arab Culture (Part Eighteen)

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How did my first attempt to escape Saudi go?

 

You must be wondering about my disappearance. Well, it’s been a hectic week. Here’s why:

  1. I started an unpaid editorial internship with Dubai’s biggest publishing company. You can find out more details once I update my About page with the information. But for anyone who is connected with me on LinkedIn, the company name is already up on  my profile. What’s interesting about this internship is that it covers the same topics that I blog about on Saudi Diva. I’m not making this up, or exaggerating. It’s a fact! when I started this blog, I decided to focus on culture and luxury travel. This includes hotel, resort and spa reviews. In addition to culture posts about Saudi. The magazine where I’m currently interning covers the exact same topics; culture and luxury travel. It’s a lifestyle magazine too – which is my dream career path! You can even find that mentioned on my About page. So I’m very happy to be at this stage and I hope that I will be able to make the most of my 6-month internship at the magazine.
  2. My dad was in town, visiting with my sisters. So, I was spending time with him and it wasn’t always fun. As the malls were very busy during this period. Think long queues at the ladies washrooms and deteriorated service level at most restaurants and cafes. I was even planning to shop for a few things during the Shopping Festival, but I couldn’t do any shopping except for grocery shopping!!! Yes, I know. How sad.

Now let me continue the story of how I escaped Saudi for the first time. The setting was 1998, after I completed high school, and I chose the lovely ski village of Leysin in Switzerland as my runaway destination 🙂

The high altitudes of the Swiss alps and the magical college landscape made for a wonderful escape destination choice. But what was not so great, was the fact that the College has been bankrupt for a couple of years and things were going downhill.

In order to keep operating, the College (American College of Switzerland) was bought by Schiller International University. But even that wasn’t enough to keep it going. So, what the management at the Leysin campus did was get big groups of Chinese students to study there at discounted prices in order for them to sustain their student numbers and survive.

It was a very ironic thing to be studying in a village in Switzerland and be surrounded by Chinese students! Everywhere you looked, there were Chinese people around! Us – the International group of students – occupied a very small number. We always sat together at one table and we bonded instantly. We were all friends! since there weren’t that many of us anyway! Until today, I keep in touch with some of my friends from ACS and we truly have a unique and special bond.

The courses that I took at the college were mostly business related. The instructors were not bad, and I managed to pass the classes very easily. Of course that was another thing that they helped students with in order to keep them coming.

After a semester of studying there, I found out that the college is not accredited. So, if I went back to Saudi to work, my certificate wouldn’t be acknowledged. This information albeit being true, was passed to me by my family to encourage me to go back to Saudi. My parents wanted me to study in Bahrain – just like my two older sisters. The University of Bahrain is not bad. The education was strong, and the staff were very grumpy but qualified. They weren’t paid well since it was a public University. However, one major thing was that it wasn’t an International University, so the degree doesn’t have much value if you’re looking for a career in a multi-national company in Dubai for example.

That’s why, I went back to University in Dubai and studied journalism at Murdoch University. But let’s leave that for another blog post. This was actually the fourth University that I enroll at! oh yes, all of that education and I’m still struggling to get paid as a writer.

Anyway, after two semesters at ACS, I decided to leave convinced that the quality of education wasn’t that good. I didn’t leave because of my family’s influence. It was mainly because I could see how the College is more like a place where Chinese students try to learn English and the International students try to pass their time on European grounds.

I had great memories at that college, but I also had to think sensibly about my future and what kind of degree I wanted to get.

I’m glad that I made the decision to leave because that college no longer exists! they had to close down a few years ago, obviously because they couldn’t sustain themselves.

After leaving ACS, I went back to Saudi and I spent time researching Universities in the U.S. and the U.K. I event took an SAT exam as a prerequisite for US University applications. I remember sending my applications to numerous Universities; Boston University being one of them.

The only problem was that all American and British Universities require at least one year’s notice. So, you had to submit your documents and application a year in advance to be considered for the new year enrollment. Since I left ACS in May (I think), and I wanted to begin my studies in September of the same year, getting accepted at a proper American or British University wasn’t an option. I also didn’t want to hang around wasting time and doing nothing for a whole year. That’s when University of Bahrain (the dreaded choice) came along. Since it’s not an International University, and since they tend to accept as many students as they can – course registration was a nightmare – I was able to join at the September semester for that same year that I left ACS in.

In the summer of that year, I think it was sometime in July, I went back to Leysin to collect my things and finish everything. That was when my Swiss dream came to an end. And with that, I was back to living in Saudi and commuting to Bahrain for my studies. I did stay at the dorms there too. They were located in the desert. And so was the University! Just like Murdoch University in Dubai. I think I have a desert student curse or something!

It’s either the lovely snow-capped mountains and green forests of Switzerland, the rainy London roads and beautiful houses and buildings, or the pure deserts of the Gulf.

So now that you understand how my first attempt at escaping my home in 1998 has ended, stay tuned for the story and destination behind the second attempt. Hint: think of a cultural city and rainy days.

Saudi Diva signing off XXX

 

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Saudi Diva talks Arab culture

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