Saudi officials often like to boast about the number of Saudi students abroad, especially in the United States. Mohammed al-Eisa, the Saudi cultural attaché in Washington DC, recently told Asharq al-Awsat that the number of Saudi students going to US schools has reached 66,000 during the last year. However, Saudi writer Mahmoud Sabbagh has raised some questions about the real number of Saudi students in the US. Sabbagh points to stats released by the Institute of International Education (IIE), which said that the number of Saudi students going to American schools in the academic year 2011/2012 is only 34,139 students. According to IIE, a DC-based non-profit organization, this number represents a 50 percent increase from the previous year, but this is still much smaller than the numbers often repeated by Saudi higher education officials. China, India and South Korea are the top three countries sending students to the US. Saudi Arabia is fourth.
Omar Johani, a Saudi student in Los Angeles, tweeted today:
Definition of dilemma: To choose between living in Saudi Arabia in order to try build a better country for your children, or immigrating to live abroad because life is too short and you don’t want to waste it in Saudi Arabia.
This is something a lot of young Saudis who have the choice to leave their country find themselves forced to tackle and think about. King Abdullah Scholarship Program has given hundreds of thousands of young men and women the chance to experience living abroad. As they become more worldly, they begin to increasingly ponder such choices in life. Some feel that they are citizens of the world who happened to be born in Saudi Arabia and they don’t feel bound to come back. Others feel that, no matter where they go or how long they stay away, they have to return home one day to contribute to the development of their country.