Saudi Arabia is notoriously difficult to visit, but for those wanting to explore this mysterious desert kingdom, you can make it a reality. The secret? Persistence and hard work. Study abroad opportunities in Saudi Arabia are few and far between, but dedicated students can find a way to explore the souks in Jeddah, visit the stone ruins of Madain Saleh, and share a heaping plate of kabsa with locals. There’s a lot to learn on arrival in Saudi Arabia, and many hold strong opinions on the country’s culture and customs. One thing is for sure: a study abroad program in Saudi Arabia is sure to challenge your beliefs and teach you more than you thought possible.
Where to Study Abroad in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is one of the largest countries in the Arab world and most of its land is arid, uninhabited desert. Situated between the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, it’s right in the middle of the region, and Muslims from all around the world come here to worship at Mecca and Medina, two of Islam’s holiest sites. The country is rapidly modernizing and has become a large producer of oil and gas, creating an increase in jobs and research opportunities in the engineering and technology sectors.
Jeddah is the second largest city in Saudi Arabia, after the capital of Riyadh, and is a popular destination for students and foreigners alike. More relaxed than other Saudi cities, Jeddah’s location as a trading hub and port city draws in business from around the globe. The city’s international vibe lends itself well to students, who attend the nearly two dozen universities and colleges in the area. When you’re finished with class, try hunting down the best dates in Al Balad, the city’s historic center, or hit up the waters off the coast for a scuba adventure.
King Abdullah Economic City is a planned city north of Jeddah, promising to bring trade, business, and educational opportunities to its residents. The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology is located nearby and is quickly becoming known as a top research university. Students study here from around the world and the campus environment is much more liberal than the surrounding country.
Top Subjects to Study in Saudi Arabia
While there are degrees of all types in Saudi Arabia, certain fields lend themselves well to study abroad students. Nearly all courses are taught in English and class formats are similar to American universities. Popular subjects to focus on during study abroad in Saudi Arabia include:
Arabic language classes provide the opportunity to improve your language skills in a fully immersive environment. You’ll likely focus on learning the Hejazi or Najdi dialects, which are similar to Modern Standard Arabic.
Islamic studies focus on the history of Saudi Arabia and how the country has been affected by the spread of Islam over the centuries. Considering Saudi Arabia has made Islam a major tenet of its society, courses on Islamic Studies will teach you about the present as much as the past.
Engineering and Technology have become popular subjects in Saudi Arabia and funding for research and scholarships in these areas has grown quickly. For students interested in the STEM fields, particularly energy and resource extraction, the country offers fantastic opportunities for advanced study.
Costs of Studying in Saudi Arabia
Study in Saudi Arabia is not necessarily cheap, but there are some options that can help you cover the costs. If you’ll be receiving college credit for your studies, you can often apply financial aid to your program costs. Likewise, many programs in Saudi Arabia offer scholarships to students, which you can apply for when you submit your program application. If you’re still coming up short, you can crowdsource your trip with a FundMyTravel account or check out GoAbroad’s extensively researched scholarship directory.
Accommodations in Saudi Arabia
There’s one word you need to learn in arabic in order to find good housing in Saudi Arabia: air conditioning. It’s a must in a country that regularly sees temperatures higher than 100 degrees fahrenheit! Luckily, this life-saver is typically included in student lodging options. Accommodations can range from simple apartments to large mansions with swimming pools, depending on your budget and where you’re living. In some cases, lodging is provided on campus, especially in areas where the school may be far from town. Be sure to check with your program or the university for tips and recommendations.
Student Visas for Saudi Arabia
All international students coming to Saudi Arabia require a student visa, and it’s best to begin the process early as it can be quite complicated. Prospective students will often need an original birth certificate, health forms completed by a doctor, and a criminal background check, as well as a certified high school diploma. Get more information on the requirements by finding your nearest embassy. While the process may be time-consuming, your program is often willing to assist you with your application.
GoAbroad Insider Tips
Studying abroad in Saudi Arabia can be a great opportunity if you can find it, but keep in mind that life in the Kingdom is very different than in other Middle Eastern countries. Islam forms the basis for the country’s society and laws, and this has a direct impact on everyday life. Generally speaking, men and women do not interact frequently, and women are limited in where they can travel and how they dress. While some customs may be a bit looser for Westerners, it’s important to research local laws and traditions to avoid offending local sensibilities.