Worries of Tomorrow!


I would simply introduce myself as: A Saudi female, who aims for a better tomorrow.

In few weeks, I will be on my way to the United States of America to pursue my post-graduate studies.
Yes, I have traveled before to many countries, including USA. And yes, I have traveled alone. Yet, I am scared! Although I try to act excited and strong, but deep inside me, I am afraid. “Living Alone” for five years, away from my family and friends is a new experience, I knew it will happen one day, but I kept denying it.

Living in Saudi Arabia is nothing like anywhere else! Being surrounded by all kind of walls that keeps you from being yourself and having your own believes, principles, and thus, identity. In Saudi Arabia, your identity is derived from your belonging to a certain family, social class, or “tribe”! Being different is usually not accepted. However, there are always exceptions.

The new thing in the experience of living abroad is facing yourself with your reality, there are no parents to guide you. There is no family, or a society that you’d be thinking: “What would they say”. There is only You and Yourself!

“Having to follow what is common in your community for your whole life is easy, as you don’t have to think about what is Right or Wrong. You just need to follow others. ” a friend of mine says. “Am afraid I won’t trust myself” she adds. “I don’t know myself, I don’t know what do I really believe in, what do I accept or refuse, what are my abilities, I don’t know the real (ME), all I know is a life I am (used to living), and a person I became because I had to!, I had no choice in being (this)” – Pointing to herself.

I am not afraid of this because I was never forced to do, believe in or become someone, I chose to be “Me”. However, I am afraid to face the whole world alone and have no one to rely on. I am spoiled – “Dad’s little girl!”. My father, like many other Saudi men, likes to do everything for us, as he wants us only to study and care for our future without worrying about anything else. I am not sure if it was because he wants to, or because it would be hard for me to do anything being a female. Even the procedures for earning my scholarship, I tried to visit the female section at the Ministry of Higher Education, but because they can’t do anything and they know nothing, I had to have my father go to the men’s section. And to finish my papers at my work, I have to wait for the reply of the men’s section, so it’s faster to let my father check with them directly, and likewise goes everything else!

Depending “FULLY” on myself, is what I want to experience.  Although it is hard, it is beneficial.

I am certain that if I, and my friend, were raised anywhere else, we would only worry about being apart of our families and friends. That’s why a question that keeps hurting me is: when will we -especially females- have a “Normal” life..? We just want it to be “Normal”.

By: Najla A. Barasain


29 Responses to “Worries of Tomorrow!”

  1. iHOS Says:

    Hey, go ahead and never look back…

    You should be what you want and you will, without those internal thoughts.

    Good luck, and all wishes to success

  2. F Says:

    believe me studying abroad going to be a great experience. You will be surprised by yourself.

    Best of luck!

  3. maissa Says:

    TRUE !!
    I always ask my self, Am i responsible ?!! Am i strong ?!!,
    [ i know deep inside that I am strong and resposible BUT because i have those ppl around me who keep saying that Females are weak they made me confused ]
    i’m sick of all ppl who said that Females are so weak and they can’t do nothing !! i want to study abroad someday and prove that WE CAN DO EVERYTHING !!!

    may god be with you, and good luck there =D..

  4. Abdul M@lik Says:

    First I wish you and all the saudi student who are going abroad all the best and they come back again to home safely.

    I think what you’re passing by is normal for a female who decided to go abroad for such a long preiod and I think with time you’ll forget everything and you’ll stop worrying about such matters.

    you’ve raised an excellent point when you said that the women can’t do anything or depand on herslef in this country . I do totaly agree with you and the whole commuinty should change their minds and be more flexible with such matters.

    naowdays, it’s better than before in some cases ” not all ” the women have the balanced postion in our community and I hope that everyone understand thier responsibilities towards themselves and the socity.

    Best wishes,

  5. Iz Says:

    Not to worry at all, in fact, You will do just Great!

    “You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself. ” Alan Alda

    Best of luck..

  6. delo Says:

    wish u the best. i’m experiencing the same now and can tell u it’s not hard at all but in the first year. u’ll enjoy the difficult part of it as well. all the luck..Dalal

  7. Qusay Says:

    Good luck with your endeavour, it is an opportunity not many people get to experience.

    Fear is normal in this situation, if u didn’t have it, it just would not be normal.

    Always remember who u r and what u stand for, and be true to yourself.

    I hope we read on how easy it was very soon 🙂

  8. To be honest, even those of us women raised in the US, with the full expectation that we will go to college and take care of ourselves, have these doubts. You are not alone in this. (Sometimes, despite the fact that I have been responsible for myself for 15 years now, I think, “I can’t do this! I need my mom!”) You will be fine.

  9. Adel Says:

    Follow your heart,and you will figure something out. Anyway, you have to take risks in you life, and believe me you won’t regret it.

  10. zilch Says:

    From what you wrote about your thoughts, I think you will do just fine. You say “we just want to be normal”- well, every time a person in your situation succeeds in living a more “normal” life, means another small step towards everyone being able to do so.

    Best of luck to you.

    • Jon Says:

      Sounds like you have normal thoughts and expectations as someone traveling abroad for a long time. As an American, I am honored that you will be coming here for an education! Like you have stated, just be yourself. No matter where you go, some people will accept & embrace you, and others will reject you. That is normal. Also, you’ll be able to sense who will embrace your presence by their eyes. God willing, you will have an amazing time of learning, training and building relationships during your stay in America.

  11. […] about to leave KSA soon heading to the US in order to continue her education. She is understandably worried. This entry was written by Ahmed, posted on Friday, February 26, 2010 at 16:59, filed under […]

  12. Hala Says:

    You’ll be fine, if for anything, you’ll get to know your true self and figure out your own values and beliefs, isn’t that exciting? and believe me, life here in the US, is far more easy to decipher and follow through than life in KSA, good luck my dear…

  13. Umm Daoud Says:

    You will do great and have a wonderful experience. Just remember that living in a country is dramatically different from visiting one, and that there’s always an “adjustment” period (this is coming from someone born and raised in the USA and moved to the Middle East). There will be times of discouragement and homesickness; I’ve found that I tend to miss my home foods and my family the most! But all in all, the times of joy and excitement will overshadow the occasional moments of doubt or frustration. Good luck, and may God be with you in your travels!

  14. ExpatInSaudi Says:

    I’m sure you’ll be absolutely fine and the fear – perfectly understandable at the moment – will soon go away. Don’t ever let it get the best of you.
    All the best for your post-grad studies.I hope you conquer all.
    I like your Arabic blog and hope you’ll soon start an English blog too.

  15. dear go ahead this is the time to achive the golden life you contineu your studies without fear

  16. najla Says:

    Dear najla,

    i saw your post through an FB common friend and thought to drop you a line.

    First of all, dont worry ALL kids who move away to college feel bad, home sick and have a difficult time adjusting (even it is just moving to a different city).

    So there is nothing new here, just try your best, look for help from Saudi, Arab, and Muslim student assoication members (you can even link with from now through the university website or councilors)..they will help you settle in and adjust (esp. if you want to know about ramadan or things you should or should not bring with you from home). this is not called dependence but called smart planning…use help when offered, dont be too proud…and guess what
    one day, someone will contact YOU to ask you for help who is going to that university 🙂

    lastly, I hope your MA gives you a bit more prespective on the wider world, opens up your horizion and gives you a bit more prespective on life …

    godo luck and i know you will enjoy it

  17. Hi Najla,

    I faced the same fears 3 years ago. Travelling abroad turned out to be a great experience, esp if there isn’t a big language barrier.

    We are quite spoiled in KSA, but in the same time, there are lots of small pleasures that I never experienced before coming to Canada, like walking to work without being harrassed, or going to a coffee shop on my own.

    I can offer you a small piece of advise: there are many things that we thought we’ll never do but time loosens us up and we start doing those things…some of them are minor (in my opinion) but could lead to major changes in our morals. My suggestion is to consciously think about all the things that you never want to do…most of them for religious reasons. Some people get carried away over time and forget these things.

    Have fun! You’ll be totally fine 🙂

  18. mawlia Says:

    The trick is to adopt the right mentality. Go to the States as an ambassador, aim to maximize your potential, explore and take it easy. God be with you!

  19. don’t you worry about that, cuz I can see through you , and what I can see is a strong girl who can over come the culture shock , along with living alone. Soon you will have friends from all over the world you wont be alone with your horizons being opened to an extent you didn’t even imagine..To be honest with you, the only thing you would face is missing your family but other than that believe me you gonna prove your self wrong that your dread will simply go with wind. Trust me when I say : ” you can do it !.” No matter what you will encounter , Najla will be up to it. Moreover, globalization is built upon new technology. It brings us closer to each other. Software just like Skype,Msn,twitter, and FB will make your life easier..

    Enjoy each and every minute from this experience, take care of your self , and I hope you will be safe and sound =)

  20. Noura Says:

    Dear Najla,

    Please don’t worry about this change in your life. I was in your shoes before and spent 7 years in the US studying. I was also completely dependent at the time and at first was even worried about how to use the metro. These things will all come easy to you I’m sure. The hardest thing in the beginning for me was learning to be “normal” in my interactions with people, especially males. Not being used to having any other gender as classmates and professors, I felt quite shy and uncomfortable at first. Also, you may find the teaching and learning style quite different (less memorizing and more using your brain). Once I got used to it things went wonderfully and I met so many great friends there. You will also expand your mind a great deal and your views may change about a lot of things. I wish you the best of luck and I hope we can one day have that normal life here!

  21. Aafke Says:

    You will do fine! Being fearful leaving your loved ones and go out all alone and into a very different world is very normal and healthy. I think every student who left home feels the same way, even if you’re in the same country. I know I did.

    Just take 10 minutes at the end of the day and reflect on your day and yourself, and you will remain true to yourself and your own values.

    And mistakes are nothing but opportunities to learn!
    Try to make friends fast through a student organisation and get them to help you where to shop and what to pay, and all the little social things. I had a friend of a friend help me when I went to study in England and it made a big difference!

  22. […] scenario is extremely common; Najla Barasain here gives an account of how pointless the women’s section is at the ministry of higher education. […]

  23. Charles Says:

    Good luck! As an American I hope and pray that you have a great experience here in the states. Although I don’t know which part of the country you will be going to, hopefully you have the opportunity to travel to different parts of the country. It is a big country and the people can differ as much as the landscape.

    Best wishes, Charles

  24. Gregg Says:

    My wife and I lived in KSA in Al Khobar for 4 years from 1972 to 1976. When we were preparing to leave the USA our company provided us with a little bit of cultural information. The more we learned the more concerned we became as it was so different from the life we grew up in as children in the farming communities in IOWA and during our college years.

    In KSA we lived in the local community and were welcomed by the people with such sincerity that our concerns soon faded away. Yes, we made some enormous cultural mistakes at times, but our friends helped us and taught us the proper way of things. They even taught us Arabic so that we could learn more and be more comfortable within the community.

    Within a short time, we became accustomed to buying our food daily in the local market place and getting sweet water from our company supply. Back then, Al Khobar was a very small community with many un-paved streets as compared to its growth today.

    I can understand your fears about being away from home. It was the same for us. Just remember to pick your friends carefully and go slow; it will all still be there tomorrow. Since you’ve been to America before you know that America is a wide open society so it can be confusing at first with all of the things that you can do here as compared to KSA and with all of the different types of people everywhere.

    Since you’ll be staying longer this time you’ll find that we just take a little bit of getting used to. Americans can be a bit arrogant at times until they get to know you; more so the French , but that’s another funny story for another day.

    Our hearts are warm and welcoming; especially here in Texas.

    My wife and I wish you all the best in your travels and studies.

    Gregg and Mary
    Dallas, TX

  25. Tracy Says:

    Greetings from the U.S.A.!

    Like many things in life, transitions and change come with both fears and happy excitement. You are wise to embrace both as part of life.

    As for your friend’s worries about being “afraid that she won’t trust herself”, the best advice I’ve found is to listen to and trust your inner voice for it is the one that tells you how to grasp and hold onto your own life.

    Many people, even in the US, are raised in communities where “you don’t have to think about what is Right or Wrong…You just need to follow others.” The painful result is that one day you realize that you are not a real person, and are instead only a reflection of the expectations of others. Your friend is right. She did not have a choice…She became the person she is today because she had to.

    The journey to ‘self’ is one of the most difficult and rewarding things anyone can do.
    I wish you and your friend strength and courage.

    The work to be treated equally or ‘normal’ is also difficult, but it has been done successfully by other groups. Learn and think and try. I know you will get there.

    Please keep writing about your adventures.

    Love, Tracy
    San Francisco Bay Area

    P.S. You will find Americans to be very friendly and there is nothing we like better than to be able to help someone else. : )

  26. مها نور إلهي Says:

    I studied in America when i was very young..after that I resumed my studeis in KSA…I didn’t study abroad, but I became responsible and independant…I just got marrid 🙂
    By the way, could you please define “normal”…for me it’s a very humilating word..the last thing i want to be is normal… probably you’ve meant “healthy” or “sound”..
    I wish you the best of luck…hope you represent Islam very well.

  27. UN Says:

    do purchase some female condoms beforehand you may need them once out from Islam

  28. UN Says:

    sorry for the above comment.
    that was an outburst

    but the pain is still there seeing sisters leaving Islam

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