Photo: Sahal Amin Hussein and Abdulaziz Saeed Alqahtani visit Selkirk from Saudi Arabia.
Joining the ranks of most universities and colleges across Canada, Selkirk College welcomed its first two international students from Saudi Arabia, Sahal Amin Hussein and Abdulaziz Saeed Alqahtani, in late February. These students have been followed by five others which arrived in early April.
The current King of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, has made a five-year commitment to increase the number of full scholarships for citizens of Saudi Arabia which has created a strong interest in Canada. The scholarship normally covers one year of English, followed by a Masters or PhD, and provides tuition, living expenses, health insurance and one return trip to Saudi Arabia each year. Canada is currently the third most popular destination for students from Saudi Arabia, after Britain and the United States.
“Canada is one of the destinations identified by the Saudi government as having capacity to take more students,” explained Selkirk College Dean for International Development, Vi Kalesnikoff. “The Saudi Ministry is monitoring capacity and setting ceilings on the number of Saudi students at any one institution to ensure a diverse cultural experience. The premise is that education of its young people will move the country away from both its reliance on oil and dependency on foreign brain power.”
Both students are enrolled in the English language program with the intention of entering Masters level studies in Business and Computer Science after about a year. When asked why they chose to come to Canada, Mr. Hussein replied, “Canada is beautiful and the educational system is not as rigid as the USA.”
Mr. Alqahtani also agreed that the beauty of Canada was what helped him choose Canada, but the other reason was, “The people are friendly and wonderful, so it is easy to learn English.” They both agreed too that their first impression of BC and Castlegar was that of the mountains, the cold, the snow and the abundant space.
Kalesnikoff travelled to Saudi in January of this year as part of a recruitment and partnership development effort with over 40 other Canadian counterparts. The mission included a four-day exhibition which was attended by over 300,000 people, visits to numerous international high schools and agencies in the cities of Dammam (capital of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia) and Jeddah (major urban center of western Saudi Arabia) and several universities.
“We made important connections that will surely be of benefit not only to potential students and the college, but to our community and region as a whole, from both an economical and social perspective,” said Kalesnikoff. “It’s exciting to add to our cultural diversity with students from this unique country.”
Celebrating its 25th year in 2011, Selkirk College International has welcomed thousands of students from over 20 different countries to the West Kootenay and Boundary regions. For further information about Selkirk International, including study abroad opportunities, please contact Department Head, Shana Rablah, at 250.365.1395 or visit www.selkirk.ca/international.
First published on April 12, 2010