BY Jihan Anwer
On the occasion of the 12th International Education Week, AMIDEAST Sana’a, in collaboration with the U.S. Departments of State and Education, hosted introductory presentations and outreach programs at universities, schools and institutes. The event was celebrated from November 12th to the 15th and had the objective of promoting exchange and study abroad programs.
According to Open Doors, 270,604 U.S. students studied abroad in 2009/10, while 723,277 international students studied in the U.S. in 2010/11. On Tuesday, Edward Prados, Director of AMIDEAST Yemen; Adam Sigelman, Cultural Affairs Officer; and Bryce Isham, Deputy Consular Chief at the U.S. Embassy, explained the process for seeking advice regarding colleges in the USA, presented different scholarship programs and broke down the process of applying for a student VISA.
Bryce Isham, Deputy Consular Chief at the U.S. embassy
All that people interested in applying for a student VISA need to do is follow the procedure. We try to maintain transparency and we need everyone to understand the process. People have misconceptions about applying and getting a VISA for America – that’s why we thought it was important to give a lecture about it and respond to students’ questions during the international education week.
Ala Nadem, student
I realized that we have to do a lot of research in order to become familiar with the various universities. This will help us make up our minds about what we really want to do. I’d like to apply for Opportunity Study and the NESA…actually, I’ll apply for anything that i’m eligible for.
I’d like to study music. What I’d really like is to have a double major, in music and communications.Ayman Abdulelah, student
They spoke extensively about the exchange and scholarship programs, as well as the process of applying for a student VISA to the U.S. We attended because we were informed that at AMIDEAST there would be presentations introducing opportunities the U.S. State and Education Departments offered to study abroad.
Personally, all the programs appealed to me, but if I apply, it will be for the NESA scholarship. Generally, I think that studying anywhere abroad, especially in America, would be a great opportunity, independent from the specific scholarship or school one applies for or to.
Tareq Hamid, YES Alumni
It was great. I practiced my English language, we were introduced to concepts such as leadership and volunteering. I was exposed to a new culture and new people.
Farah al Wazir, YES Alumni
I went to America for a whole year and lived with an American family. I went there as a junior and studied my 11th grade in the states, from 2009-2010.
I was proud to represent Yemen and Islam, and I felt that was one of the best outcomes of the trip. I wore my hijab all the time, and I didn’t face problems with that. On the contrary, I found people very respectful. I was sometimes asked queer questions such as whether we could hear or not. I think my efforts have not been appreciated anywhere else as they have been appreciated and recognized in the states.
Adam Sigelman, Cultural Affairs Officer
During International Education Week, all over the world we celebrate studying in other countries. I think that studying abroad is important for several reasons. One is for the individual himself, the skills gained and, in most cases, the acquisition of a new language.
I also think it’s good for Americans to have international students around and be able to interact with them, especially if the students are from Yemen. This is mainly due to the way the media has delivered Yemen’s image and the related alarming news stories which are published.
If we understand each other, then we can work together and do business together. It makes matters easier at the international level for us diplomats as well.
Thirdly, I think it’s really important for Yemen right now. Despite the progress that has been made in the last year and a half on the political front, there are still enormous challenges – politically, economically, socially and security-wise.
And these are the issues that Yemen is currently working with the international community to solve. But the people who are trying to solve these challenges and that are running the country now have been around for so long and Yemen is a young country; it would be the right time for a change. In fact, it won’t be long until this generation, the younger generation, will take over the country.
If the youth is given the opportunity to be in contact with different cultures, learn new languages, understand how the world works, how money flows through the system, it would be of incredible assistance to the future development of Yemen.
We first started doing our exchange programs right after WWII, and the idea was really simple. People are less prone to be killing each other if they know and understand each other. That is the very basic idea, but it goes beyond that. When cultures understand one another, their politicians and diplomats for example work better together.
It’s in our interest to promote it. As I mentioned before, people don’t know much about Yemen, but it could be a two-way street. What people in Yemen know about the United States might be simply superficial knowledge acquired through media and news, and remain unaware of the underlying rich culture.
Amal al Wazir, International Education Assistant for Amideast Sana’a
The benefits that we have recognized of studying abroad are confidence development and leadership skills. This is very tangible and visible in students of the the YES program for example.They are more focused and have a clearer idea about what they’d like to do in the future.
Students come also for the advising session, looking for colleges. The advising and counsel section at AMIDEAST was established as a model to the American system, targeting grades 11 to 12. We are implementing an outreach programs to help students decide about their future since their high school years instead of waiting for the gap year. Especially for majors, they need to decide, or at least have an idea, about the major they are interested in undertaking, what kind of field or career they’d rather work. In the U.S.A., students are in a better position to make the right choices about their interest because they are exposed and involved in community work, group activities, volunteering and invited to stand up for different causes.
Through this experience, they are often eventually able to discover what they are passionate about and thus which type of education they’ll pursue in the future.
I found it extremely positive that thanks to our outreach programs in different governorates and through social communication networks, now it’s not unusual to receive students residing in villages asking about scholarship and exchange programs.
We all want the welfare of our country and we think that by studying abroad students have an additional edge that will help them in the development of Yemen once they return to their homeland.
Thekra Al- Sabahi, SUSI Alumni
SUSI, The Study of the United States Institute, focuses on women’s leadership and it’s a 5-week program in America; four weeks in Minnesota and the last week in Washington, D.C.
We learned about women’s history in the states and we were introduced to the culture. We were invited to different places, both private and public. We also did volunteering jobs while studying at Minnesota University and taking classes on leadership and methodologies.
This experience changed me a lot – the program in part, but even more, the travelling itself. The people that I met helped me to develop my personality.
I realized that women are capable of doing a lot. In our community, there are limits to women showing their power. When I was there, I met many powerful women doing lots of things.
There are no boundaries for us, but we have to be committed and believe in our ideas.
Before I went to the States I thought my life would be a regular one: study, marry, have kids and stay at home. But when I came back, I realized that I could do my own projects and I actually started it with my own team. I’m working with the U.S. Embassy and my task is now to make people aware of scholarship opportunities.
From each woman we were introduced to, there was a quality or a trait i particularly appreciated. I want all girls to be confident and to know that they can do whatever they want, just dream big, there is no limit but the sky. They shouldn’t be afraid of our society or be frightned.