University: First semester in review.

The 17th of December was officially the last day of classes for us here at Prince Sultan University.

Isn’t it unbelievable how fast time flies?

I still remember the moment when my parents suggested that I study at PSU: I was in the middle of studying for an important exam when I was disrupted by a commotion coming from outside my room. Who wouldn’t be thrilled to receive their contract of employment, right? Although it has been a dream of mine to study overseas, Saudi Arabia was never on the list. This was somehow a chance for me to fulfill that dream but at that time, I decided that I didn’t want to study there.

However, the bad perception I had of PSU (and Saudi Arabia) changed after I moved here. Not long after migrating, I found myself putting all my effort and time to prepare for PSU’s entrance and promotion exams—which explains why my cake blog has been quiet for a long time—and now, I just completed my first semester here!

Even I myself am surprised that I enjoy studying at PSU.

Daily commute pt 3

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Despite its status as a nonprofit private university, PSU has big goals, several notable achievements, and first class facilities. It also has a good reputation among the people of Saudi Arabia. However, the size of PSU’s campus is nothing compared to the enormous King Saud University or Princess Noura University. The latter even has its own metro system! Currently, PSU has 4 buildings: half of it is the male campus and the other half is the female campus. Can you picture how small it is? But it doesn’t matter to me because it means that I don’t have to do a lot of walking and there aren’t many students which also means lots of opportunities. And I don’t have to live in a dormitory.

Lovely day!

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As I’ve mentioned in one of my previous posts, we have a diverse community. I’ve met people from all over the globe: you name it, they’re here in PSU. For my first semester, I was taught by a Jordanian, Chinese-American, American, Jordanian, Egyptian, and a Saudi. Next semester, I’ll most likely be taught by a Russian professor for one of my courses!

Another reason why I like PSU is because it has clean toilets. It’s something I didn’t have throughout my school years and something you definitely won’t see often here in Saudi Arabia. Finally, I like studying here because PSU has that American ambience going on. The infrastructure (not all) can be described as a replicate of the High School Musical set. Being here, you can forget that you’re actually in Saudi Arabia.

Sunset #selfie

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However, university isn’t entirely great.

The reason why I say this is because I experienced a double culture shock. Since moving to Riyadh and before going to university, I spent 99.9% of my time cooped up at home. Even if I did go out, I didn’t interact with the locals because of their nature, the language barrier, and my shyness.

University was the place where both the Saudi and university culture shock hit me. Among the challenges I faced were:

  • Remembering people’s names (not my fault that they have weird unique names)
  • Remembering
  • Time and self-management

I am convinced that the last two—and the first—were a result of me not using my brain enough during the holidays. Although hard for me to say this, I must also admit it was a result of not going to school for a long time. Yes, true it is.

2015-12-21-05.39.11-1.jpg.jpg

During this semester, I realized that university is very different from high school. Even though I didn’t have as many classes as I did in high school, it didn’t keep me from being very busy and despite having classes only on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays (only 2 hours), and Thursdays, it was more exhausting than going to school five days a week!

Another thing I learned since going to university is that I can have lots of friends and have no friends at the same time. In high school, I had the same classmates for 2 whole years—some as long as 5—but in university, I would see different people during each of my lectures. This situation is both bad and good.

Since everyone has busy schedules, it’s hard to have a decent and deep conversation with people. As a result, I don’t know much about them—even some of their names! Plus, the lack of understanding due to our inability to express our thoughts effectively only increases the gap between me and them (note that English is a second language for most of us). Being an international student doesn’t make this easier either because to develop a sense of trust isn’t easy. You can never know what they’re actually thinking.

On the other hand, the relationship I have with the university’s community is unlike that of school: I am friendlier here. Back in high school, my friends were exclusively my classmates but in university, everyone is my friend. Age is no longer a reason for me to not talk to or interact with another person. In fact, I’ve even taught people who are older than me!

Earlier, I mentioned that there are numerous opportunities for me here at PSU. Even in my first semester, I achieved several things that I’m proud of:

  • Represented Malaysia for the International Cultural Day event
  • Registered for a contest hosted by Unilever (but didn’t get through)
  • Spoke Malay IN FRONT OF the camera
  • Registered to become a PSU delegate for the World Model United Nations (World MUN) and was shortlisted for an interview
  • Featured in the front page of Taif magazine (issue 139)
  • Featured in Destination Riyadh (December 2015)

The best part is that everything listed above were unplanned! And since I am now aware of the endless opportunities at PSU, I have several things that I want to achieve by the end of the next semester:

  • Play tennis (more than just once!)
  • Have an article or two in Translation Connect* and/or The Beacon*
  • Speak fluent Arabic
  • Speak German
  • Know how to swim
  • Not be so passive
  • Make it to Rome

I am genuinely excited to see what the next semester holds for me!

With this, I end my review of my first semester at PSU.


*Translation Connect is PSU’s magazine about Translation, Language, and Culture

*The Beacon is PSU’s research magazine

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Asyraf Mutalib

A passionate but lazy artser.

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