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Originally from Saudi Arabia, Bassam Almuhamidh is more than 7,000 miles from his hometown and is graduating this spring with
a degree in telecommunication administration. Almuhamidh has been at Weber State University since 2006. He said he came to the United States specifically for WSU, and he’s had to navigate substantial linguistic and cultural differences in reaching his educational goals at WSU.
“The first time I came here, I didn’t know anything about American life or Weber State,” Almuhamidh said. “Every time I have been in the United States and Weber State, every day I learn new things. And that’s good to learn new things in my life.”
Almuhamidh said that attending college isn’t easy by any means, even for American students. Being so far from home, thrown into a completely different culture with its own nuances and classes held in a different language, has made it especially difficult.
“It’s a hard time being away from your home town,” Almuhamidh said. ”Everything’s different.”
Almuhamidh said he dearly misses his family — his father, mother, five brothers and seven sisters, and he also misses his camels.
“I’m from the desert. I’m a desert boy. I have too many camels, and I like it,” Almuhamidh said. “Maybe the most thing I miss from my country is my camels.”
Almuhamidh had to grow accustomed to a lack of camels and differences in food, music, weather and geography. Perhaps the largest cultural difference Almuhamidh said he struggled with initially was that Saudi Arabian culture carries a stronger sense of community.
“All the people there are like community people. All the time, they like to go and hang out. But when you come to school in the United States, you have to be with yourself. And the first time you come here, there’s not too many people that you know. There’s nobody that knows you.”
Almuhamidh said being so far from home requires a lot of independence and self-reliance.
“In the United States, sometimes you have to depend on yourself, and there is nobody who cares about you. You have to care about yourself.”
But Almuhamidh said he has learned to care about WSU and the community, which in turn cares about him. Almuhamidh said he likes aspects of American culture. He likes the NBA, especially the Utah Jazz. He likes American music, citing hip-hop and rap especially. Almuhamidh also likes swimming, spending time at the gym and hanging out with his friends in his free time.
Almuhamidh said he’s made a lot of friends from all over.
“The people here are so friendly. They like to talk to people. They like to know a different culture, and everything about the world. They didn’t know anything about Saudi Arabia. And when you ask them, they’d say, ‘Where is it?’ I like the people here. I appreciate all the people in my life.”
Almuhamidh said he is glad he’s had the opportunity to share in the exchange of culture.
“Some people are scared of the people from the Middle East,” Almuhamidh said. “And when they meet me or any guys, and talk with him and see his culture and see what he’s doing, that picture in their mind will all change. And that’s good.”
Almuhamidh plans on returning to Saudi Arabia after graduating. Morteza Emami, director of the International Student and Scholar Center at WSU, said Almuhamidh was a great student, and he remembers the day Almuhamidh initially walked into his office. Emami said most international students — about two-thirds — return to their home countries directly after graduation, like Almuhamidh.
“The education they receive from Weber State is invaluable,” Emami said. “Often when they return home, they have better jobs and high-paying jobs because of the degree that they receive from Weber and the education that they receive from Weber.”
Emami said WSU currently has more than 400 international students. Though more than half come from Saudi Arabia right now, Emami said 41 different countries are represented at WSU, and that the exchanges that result from having international students on campus are immensely valuable, both to the students and WSU.
“The international students receive quite a bit, but also, they contribute tremendously to the quality of education at Weber, in and outside of the classroom,” Emami said. “They bring to the table diversity and different points of view of looking at things, fresh ideas, experiences that, most of the time, our students may not have. It’s a good give-and-take.”
Almuhamidh said he anticipates some differences when he returns home after undergoing such a huge and life-altering experience in being away from his home country and culture for so long.
“It’s going to be different, because there might be something new in my country and something different,” Almuhamidh said. ”But it’s still the same, and I think my experience will help my life, and I’m going to help my family and people there.”
Almuhamidh said he’ll value the time and work he’s put in at WSU and he’ll miss his time here.
“It was hard, you know, but you’re going to miss it,” he said.