Saudi Women?s Understanding of the Stereotypes they Experience at Flinders University
This study is aimed to explore Saudi Women students? experiences of stereotypes they received at Flinders University and their understanding of those experiences. The study sought to determine the extent to which Saudi women experienced stereotyping at Flinders University, how stereotypical experiences have influenced Saudi women?s social and study life and the degree to which these women consider their experiences different from the experiences of other international women students.
The researcher employed the use of a qualitative phenomenological study design whereby, responses from seven Saudi women taking part in a postgraduate or undergraduate program at Flinders University were analyzed to contribute to the research on this subject.
The study found that the majority of Saudi women students had mostly positive experiences in their social interaction.
Saudi women: females of Saudi Arabian origin
Stereotype: a fixed, wrong and oversimplified view of a particular individual, group, thing or situation, (Oxford Dictionary).
Discrimination: unfair treatment of people or a group, based on race, sex, color or origin that is different from the way a person treats normal people, (Oxford Dictionary).
Muslim: a believer of the Islamic religion.
Culture: a set of beliefs and practices that influence patterns of behaviour, thought and interaction with others, added to the view of life. The network of knowledge that consists of leaned routines of thinking, feeling, and interacting with others, in addition to the corpus of substantive assertions and ideas about the aspects of the world (Cohen, 2009).
Hijab or veil: a scarf or veil worn by some Muslim women over the head in public
Islamophobia discrimination against a person or group by virtue of them being Muslim or of the Islamic faith
CHAPTER ONE: Introduction
There?s an immense number of Saudi women studying in Australia. The new environment presents a lot of challenges for Saudi Women both socially and culturally. Preconceived and fixed beliefs about Saudi women affect the way other students view them. These stereotypical beliefs lead to a stereotypical way of treating Saudi women. The view of Saudi women of these stereotypes is important in shaping their coping strategies in a foreign environment. It affects their study life and social life in general. With the availability of scholarship programs like the King Abdul-Aziz scholarship program, more Saudi students are expected to be joining Flinders University.
There has recently been an increase in the number of students from Saudi Arabia joining international universities around the world including Flinders University, where there has been an upsurge in the number of students from Saudi Arabia joining its educational programs. The primary reason behind this increase has been due to the establishment of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program that is aimed at ensuring that more Saudi women can access education in an international setting, (Taylor et al., 2014).
The trend has led to an interest in research to understand the academic and social experiences of Saudi female students in the university environment. There is currently only limited research exploring the experiences of Saudi women at Flinders University (Taylor et al., 2014).This study aims to address the personal experiences of this population of Saudi women who are international students at Flinders University.
My interest in this subject area has also arisen from personal experiences that I have encountered while living and studying in Adelaide which I felt were related to aspects related to my dress, religion, culture, country of origin or a combination of all of these factors. I wanted to explore the commonality of such experiences among other women students.
It is crucial to note that Saudi as a nation claims Islam as its main religion. Islamic writings have recorded it that ?the seeking of knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim (Aston et al., 2014). This is the reason behind the establishment of the scholarship program by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia for those students who wanted to study abroad.
In the past decade, the nation of Saudi Arabia has additionally pushed for the participation of both male and female in all sectors of the economy. As opposed to the traditional norms where women were regarded as unfit for education, contemporary Saudi society is doing much to ensure that women are included in educational programs and developmental ventures. The process famously known as, ?Saudization? has been instrumental in ensuring that both Saudi genders can access the jobs that have been in the past filled by foreign workers, (Aston et al., 2014).
Since this research focuses on Saudi women studying at Flinders University it is important that relevant background information of Saudi Arabia regarding its religion, culture, and the role of the women in the Saudi Arabian context be included.
Figure 1.1. Enrolment growth of Saudi students in US, UK (Britain), Canada and Australia (Taylor & Albasri, 2014).
Following a royal decree from the reign of King Abdul-Aziz, there has been a notable increase in the number of students from Saudi Arabia studying at Flinders University. Just as the culture gas been, the number of Saudi Arabian students studying abroad has been increasing over the years. The experiences of these students in new environments and foreign cultures are key determinants of their school experience in general.
Female students have needs that are best addressed after understanding their experiences. They hail from an Islamic background, with unique practices and cultures. This study focuses on understanding the experiences of Saudi women at Flinders University through the filling of the gaps in the literature on the female Saudi experiences in Australia, identifying the stereotypes the women may be passing through, and possible solutions to the identified problems. Currently, there is limited literature to address this making the proposed research extremely vital in addressing this gap.
Despite the significant increase in the number of Saudi women enrolled in Australian universities, very little research has been done to understand their experiences and how they bridge the cultural differences. Thus, this study sought to investigate Saudi women understanding of stereotype experiences they encounter at Flinders University and the impact that these experiences have had on their social and study life as well as the strategies they use to cope with the new environment. The findings of this study will greatly enhance the educational experiences of international students in general and Saudi women, in particular. The findings will also assist education providers in Australia to make a better plan for international education.
Study Justification
There is little research on the experiences that female students of Saudi nationality go through when studying abroad. On the same note, there lack of studies on the experiences of female Saudi students studying at Flinders University. Given the fact that contemporary measures have led to an increase in the number of female Saudi students studying at Flinders University, it is relatively crucial to understand their experiences in regards to stereotyping, and general experience in the host institutions. There is also a need to determine if the trend of stereotyping is increasing due to the increase of the female Saudi students at Flinders University.
There is little research on the experiences that female students of Saudi nationality go through when studying abroad. And there is also a paucity of studies on the experiences of female Saudi students studying at Flinders University. Given the fact that there has been an increase in the number of Saudi women students studying at Flinders University, it is important to understand their experiences in regards to stereotyping at the host institution and in their lives more generally.
Aims of the Study
1. To investigate the degree to which Saudi women feel that they experience stereotyping at Flinders University.
2. To determine how these women feel that stereotypical experiences have influenced their social and study life.
3. To determine to what degree these women consider their experiences different from the experiences of other women students.
Significance of the study
Australia has the highest population per capita of foreign students from other nations in the world. Approximately 29% of Australian students in universities are international students. Despite the financial crisis of 2008-2009, international students have continually chosen Australia over other countries as their favourite study destination of choice (Taylor & Albasri, 2014). Challenges facing Saudi women arise from stereotypes associated with the Islamic religion, to which they are affiliated. Specifically, international terrorism has worsened the experience of Saudi women studying at Flinders University. Typically, the Muslim community is perceived as synonymous with terror and war; ?Muslims are terrorists, especially girls with scarves? (Mansouri & Trembath, 2005).
This qualitative study aims at describing the perceptions of Saudi women students living and studying at Flinders univ…

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