We’re all unique, and so is our college experience

When I say the word college, we all have our own ideas of what this word entails along with everything that happens when students go to college. But, not everywhere or everyone has the same experience as you, creating a diverse range of knowledge and well-rounded group of people. College in the Middle East has distinct differences than college in America.

Many American students are accustomed to moving away and living in dorms when they go to college. However, it is more common in the Middle East for students to live at home and commute to their college nearby. This is very interesting to me because although a small population of American students live at home and go to a community college, it is generally expected that students move away to college. In fact, it is often times looked down upon to stay at home. We value the independence that comes along with moving away for the first time. However, Middle Eastern students find it normal to live it home. I could see why this would be more effective, since staying at home would keep students focused on their studies and it keeps them closer to their family. Which do you think is more important, learning independence or staying focused and being with your family?

Here in America, internships and on campus jobs are heavily stressed. Students are even given work-study to guarantee them a job. In the Middle East, they focus only on their classes themselves instead of juggling a job or internship on top of it. They take their classes and schoolwork very seriously. I think a big factor in this is that since American students are moving away during college while Middle Eastern students are not, they are forced to make extra money to pay their rent or dorm fees. So, do you feel that it’s more important to have a job or internship or to focus on your studies?

Interestingly enough, 690,923 international students are enrolled in America, and 33,797 are students from the Middle East. This means that about 5% of international students in America are Middle Eastern. Yet only 1% of American college students go to school in the Middle East. Although this isn’t a huge difference in percentages, there is definitely a larger group of Middle Eastern students studying in America. I feel that many people in America are uninformed about a typical Middle Eastern college as well as the variety of experience they would get by traveling to the Middle East to study. What do you think creates the difference in percentages?

I would argue that neither the American nor the Middle Eastern college system is a better structure. We each have a different education with different experiences along the way. It’s important to recognize these differences and accept that not everyone has the same education. Think about the differences and think about what your life would be like in the opposite experience. As I did this for myself, a lot of things around me seemed to change yet the most important part of my education seemed to stay the same.

Sources: College Life in the Middle East, Middle East Unrest Puts Study Abroad Programs on Edge, Middle Eastern International Students


9 thoughts on “We’re all unique, and so is our college experience

  1. This is a great concept; I think that the differences in percentages are due to cultural stigmas of both areas. In general, America has a very warped sense of the Middle East and vice versa. But I also think that America is more idealized as a promised and the Middle East isn’t somewhere on the top of most Americans’ bucket lists, so people are more likely to come to America than elsewhere. Could it also be because our country is run democratically, though?

  2. I think you make some really good points in your blog. Speaking from my own experience, staying at home while attending college was never an option for me, I didn’t want to consider it. As close as I am with my family, I wanted to live somewhere else and experience something new. I think there’s a huge cultural difference between the Middle East and U.S. I think family, and tradition is extremely important to cultures in the Middle East, while in the U.S. students put more emphasis on being independent.

    I think Danielle makes a valid point that there are cultural stigmas of both areas, which affect the amount of traveling people do. Unfortunately we are bombarded by media that only addresses negative aspects of the Middle East such as the violence going on with ISIS. I think many Americans are uninformed of the beautiful things that can be seen in the Middle East and because of that it is not place many individuals in the U.S. desire to go.

  3. “This means that about 5% of international students in America are Middle Eastern. Yet only 1% of American college students go to school in the Middle East.” This statement from your post really stood out to me and actually opened my eyes to this statistic. As I was reading your article, I began to ask myself the questions you incorporated into it. Before educating myself about the Middle East, I wouldn’t primarily say it would be the top choice location to attend college. Now that I am more educated and know there are great things beyond the stigmas associated with the area, I would love to jump on the opportunity and experience what college really is like there. As, leaders we can promote the beautiful things that can be seen and look past the negative aspects.

  4. As I was reading this blog, I thought there were some really good points. I know for me, it is almost impossible to imagine myself still living at home and being with my family everyday. I never stopped to think that living with your family is a normal part of everyone’s college experience. I think that this idea is something that could be explored a little more and really be delved into.

  5. Great points! I guess we never really think about leaving home for college. Although, it isn’t that surprising that college students who live in the Middle East still live with their family. I think family is more valued in the Middle East and other countries than in America. We value independence and making a life for ourselves rather than limiting ourselves to where we were raised. I think our values are very different.

  6. I really enjoyed this post! I’ve never really considered the differences in college experiences here and there, but after reading this, I can see how the idea of living at home while going to college would radically change the experience. I have always associated going to college with becoming independent and for the most part, moving away from home. Although I remain close to my family and miss them while I’m at school, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I would agree that things are different in the Middle East because of the stronger emphasis on family. I would also make the suggestion that we value being very busy and hardworking (at times, overworked) in college here because of the American values of competitiveness and ambition. That is actually something that was suggested to me this summer by a student from South America who had spent a semester studying in the US.
    Although I am loving my college experience as a whole, I sometimes wish that we put a little more emphasis on family and a little less emphasis on always pushing ourselves to the limit to be competitive.

  7. I’ve also read that another common option for a lot of people is also to join the military and then go to college after those years, and I think that also contributes to their college decisions because by the time they’re done with the military they are at what we think is the standard age to graduate college. I didn’t find it interesting how they don’t really value balancing internships and jobs with school, and that actually seems really nice because I definitely would have more time to focus if I wasn’t worried about those factors. I think part of the reason we care so much about that here in the US is because our education isn’t the factor that gets us jobs now a days, what really matters for us is to have experience and networking connections.

  8. Really awesome questions, it got me thinking a lot. While I have nothing against a system that focuses on studies much more, I do find it more beneficial here to find internships and build real world experience outside of a classroom. Book smarts can only get you so far, but then employers want to see you actually have experience in their field already.

  9. This was a very thought-provoking topic for me. For some reason when I think students attending college in other countries I automatically assume that the students go through about the same application process and I jump to the conclusions that most students attending college in other countries are the same age as I am. As it was stated previously, many Israeli students go to college after the military which is very interesting to me. I have had several friends that have went off to the army as an alternative to college rather than an addition. A lot of my friends have chosen the military as their career path for the rest of their life, but then again it is their choice to join not a requirement.

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