– Living at University of Missouri-St. Louis does not strike most students as a challenge or a major change. However, UMSL is highly diverse and helps to educate students from many different parts of the world.(l-r) Mohannad Almohanna, Mohammad Tuman and Abdullah Ateeq, three international students at UMSL. Photo by Anya Glushko / The Current ©
By Anya Glushko, Features Editor for The Current
Living at University of Missouri-St. Louis does not strike most students as a challenge or a major change. However, UMSL is highly diverse and helps to educate students from many different parts of the world. The various makeup of the population enables students and professors to expand their horizons and learn more about other cultures and their ways of life.
Three students from Saudi Arabia came to UMSL in January to study English. Mohannad Almohanna, graduate, banking and finance, is working on his first year of master’s degree. He plans to stay at UMSL for the next three years to finish his education. Abdullah Ateeq, freshman, English, and Mohammad Tuman, freshman, English, plan to stay at UMSL for the next eight months, then return to King Saud University to become interpreters.
“We want to learn the language from native speakers and get to know a new culture and traditions,” Almohanna said.
Sometimes it can be challenging for international students to understand the language and the culture. “When someone comes to a new country, he will face difficulties, but he will get over it. When someone does not have the skills to speak English, they will use body language to communicate … Food is different. Clothing is different, too. In Saudi Arabia, we wear thobe, robe made out of very soft fabric, generally cotton. We wear different colors in winter season, but we wear just white color in the summer season, because when the sun comes to your thobe, it will make you extremely hot; white will reflect the sun,” Tuman said.
For footwear, sandals — made out of leather or other natural materials and usually handcrafted by elder men — are preferred. Local produce is more affordable on the market than the produce that is exported from other countries such as Italy and France.
“Most of the people are friendly and helpful. Every country had good people and bad people, but most of the people there are friendly as well as here … There is one religion, Islam. There are some rules in Islam. For example, when you smile to other people you are giving them a gift,” said Almohanna.
There is one month when all Muslim people fast. This tradition only goes for adults, starting at 15 years old. From sunrise to sunset, men and women go without consuming any food or drink.
“When we fast, we will remember the poor people, and we will live their experience … They do not eat, they do not have money … After this special month ends, we must give them money, food and supplies … You can buy toys to make kids happy,” Tuman said.
“One holiday that we celebrate lasts three days after this special month of fast, and at that time we have feasts. All the relatives come together and are celebrating with us. Even when they are in other cities, they come to one home and sit together … The families in our country are not like here; they are much bigger. Our average family size with relatives is about 30 people,” Tuman said.
“There is no racism in our country; black, white, they are all the same. We are all human,” Tuman said.
“I pray five times a day. Each prayer is about three minutes. When your praying time comes, you have to close shops and stores to respect the time of prayer,” Ateeq said.
This is a custom in Saudi Arabia only. “My mother is from Dubai, so whenever I went there, the bells called but nobody closed their shops,” Tuman said.
“In America, the most famous sports are football and hockey; in Saudi Arabia, the special sport is soccer. The kids are crazy about it. They play and play it every day,” Tuman said.
Almohana, Ateeq and Tuman are enjoying staying in Oak Hall at UMSL. They are eager to discover the culture of St. Louis. “The food at UMSL is really good. I like the dining hall. The shuttle is very convenient, too, and MetroLink is, as well. It can save you some money. It is awesome,” Ateeq said.
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