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

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Bad life decisions and how they influence us.

 

In the previous post, I spoke about my first attempt to leave home and how that mission unfolded. If you missed that post, you can still read all about it here.

Before we move on to the second attempt – which took place in the year 2009 – let me take you through a few chapters in between the two pursuits for freedom.

As a reminder, this post is a response to a statement from a friend that I was directed with recently. While we were discussing our lives and past disappointments, I know we sound like old ladies, she had mentioned this: You should have left home way earlier.

So as an answer to my friend’s views, this series of posts was created. We already examined what happened with my first attempt to escape Saudi. Now let’s look back at the years from when I went back to study at University of Bahrain to the year I decided to leave home again. We’re looking at the years from 1999 to 2009 – that’s a total of ten years of my life!

Today’s post will cover the University of Bahrain chapter. To be honest, I hated that period of my life so much, that I don’t feel like talking about it. I think I will keep the post brief and just mention the main things.

University of Bahrain is a government-owned University. The teaching was in English. I was taking a newly introduced course titled: Business Information Systems. I enrolled and joined the University in September of the year 1999. Luckily, I was able to transfer all my credits from the two semesters that I completed in Switzerland. So I was exempted from all of the courses that I took at American College of Switzerland. Which was a great thing.

The course that I started – Business Information Systems – was so new that no one had an idea of its career prospects. We were told that we could work in IT-specific roles, business positions, or CRM-related jobs. Since the course was newly launched at the University and in the country in general, the employment opportunities were pretty vague. No one – including the academic University staff – had a clear idea of where we could work after graduation. There were constant debates about the topic, but not solution or decision.

During the course of study, I didn’t enjoy the technical subjects, like programming and web development, but I found the business and business analysis courses more interesting. The curriculum included a combination of courses, which was good. However, without a specific specialization, we were left without a clear description of our area of expertise. This translated to not knowing where to work, let alone which roles to take on after graduation. Very confusing indeed.

The subjects we took ranged from accounting, marketing and management courses, to systems analysis, HTML web design and computer programming topics. The majority of us students were lost. So after we get this kaleidoscopic degree, where do we apply? what career opportunities do we consider? what industries do we look into? what types of organizations do we approach? Not a single soul had the answer!

The University of Bahrain is a public educational institution. It is not recognized internationally. While the certificate and degree are accredited and the teaching was strong, the value of the degree isn’t that heavy since it’s a local public University. This is extremely disappointing considering the fact that passing the courses/subjects at that University wasn’t a piece of cake. The curriculum was a British-style one, the grading system was tough and the exams were very challenging to pass!

We even had an end-of-year graduation project to complete. I had to do mine with just one other student. And we spent two semesters working on it! we designed a system for course registration using a software that wasn’t easy to use! I’m glad that I am done with academic education for now.

It took me four years to get my Bachelors degree from University of Bahrain! So you can imagine how relieved I was when I finally got that course over with in the year 2003. Since I went to Switzerland in the summer of the year 1998 for my Business Administration course, this amounted my college years to a total of five years! from 1998 to 2003.

I ended up with a Bachelors of science degree in Business Information Systems and zero direction of career prospects or what to do for a living. The course was new to the whole Gulf Region, let alone Saudi. It sounded like a very innovative and cool degree and course of study. But where do we go from here? 🙂

I think the professors at University of Bahrain were as clueless as the students as to where we should be looking for jobs and applying. I will tell you what I ended up doing in my next post. For now, let me tell you a few things about those years of studying in Bahrain.

I was basically staying in the University student accommodation in the middle of the desert. Despite taking driving lessons and failing my first exam, I wasn’t very keen on driving. It wasn’t a big deal since I was going back to Saudi in the weekends anyway. Bahrain is a 45-minute to one-hour drive from my city – Al Khobar – in Saudi. On some semesters, when I only had two days of classes, I was commuting only for those days and then going back home. It was an all-girls dorm, but a mixed University. I got to mix with girls from other GCC countries and learn more about their cultures and habits. I had my own room, but I shared the washroom and showers with six other girls who shared the apartment block. We had a small living room and kitchen. I didn’t bond very much with the girls from the dorm, as we had different interests. For starters, they were from a relatively older age group. We all came from different social backgrounds. Some came from very traditional families, others from more liberal ones. But it was very interesting to see what single GCC/Arab girls would get up to when they are living alone. I say this because it wasn’t my first experience living alone. I had lived on my own in Leysin, Switzerland before partially moving to Bahrain to study.

The girls who I shared the student dorms with were the type who paid so much attention to boys. It seemed like all they cared about was meeting and dating boys. Which was normal I guess for that age, but I was not like them. Although we all had similar freedoms, we were spending our leisure time differently. While they might be going out on dates with random boys – or even just talking with them on the phone – I was going to the mall, to the movies or hanging out with friends.

While my focus was my education (basically getting that degree over and done with) and my career, they were more concerned with who they were going to get married to. Conversations like “I have three options for guys who I could marry” and other very awkward things that I can’t even write here were not uncommon to be heard in the apartment’s living space.

Once, a girl who was a few years older than me and had went to the same school that I went to in Saudi said something that I can never forget. Actually, she was from an Arab country (non-GCC) and she was the one debating which of the there potential suitors to consider for marriage. She made a statement – in front of the other girls from the apartment – that went like this: “are you a lesbian?” of course she said that phrase jokingly, but what she implied was that I wasn’t showing any interest in men, and therefore I must be of a heterosexual orientation. How offensive and ignorant was that comment?!

The thing is some of us are just built differently. While I do have an interest in meeting someone compatible to share my life with, that goal might not come at the top of my priorities list. For example, while I’m still single, there are other objectives to be reached and targets to be met. These include getting paid for writing, either by getting a full-time or part-time role in publishing, or by monetizing my blog.

While all of my life goals and aspirations are not easy to achieve, I don’t think that time will stand still if I don’t meet anyone or be with someone anytime soon. That’s why, I believe that my career and blog goals carry more significance than meeting the right person. Unless that partner is able to assist me in reaching my other two goals, then that’s another story and he could move up to the top of my priority list!

Now that you know more about my University of Bahrain days, let me end this post by stating that the reason that my parents wanted me to study in that University is that it was close to our home. Since they are the over-protective, controlling and self-involved parents that they are, their decision was for us to all go to University of Bahrain.

Anyway, that was in the past. There’s nothing that can be done about it. We just need to learn from our mistakes and make sure not to repeat them in the future.

That’s why, these days, I don’t allow anyone to decide anything for me, or interfere with any of my life decisions – whether big or small. I’m not young anymore, and I certainly can’t afford to make any more mistakes. Life’s too short, I’m 35 and a half years old and I still have a lot of goals to accomplish. So, please leave me alone.

Saudi Diva signing off XXX

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Saudi Diva talks Arab culture

 

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