International Spotlight: Saudi Students Present November CultureLink Tea Nov. 13

It’s difficult not to get along with Ghassan Gamal, 26, a graduate student in the Manufacturing Systems Engineering program. His effervescent personality has made him a natural leader among Saudi students and throughout various student clubs. Gamal, accompanied by Meshal Almutari and Abdullah Aljubiri, will give a presentation on Saudi Arabia for November’s CultureLink Tea presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

Ghassan Gamal

Ghassan Gamal in traditional Saudi clothing.

The University of St. Thomas community is invited to attend the presentation from 2 to 3 p.m. at Scooter’s in the Anderson Student Center. Tea and Saudi treats will be provided.

Gamal arrived in the United States in 2010 and attended an intensive English program at the ELS center in Orlando, Fla. Despite the fact that he was accepted by other institutions, Gamal decided to come to St. Thomas for his program’s curriculum and the Saudi student presence on campus. When asked about the change of weather from Florida to Minnesota, he laughs and says: “I was afraid of Minnesota weather. It was the first time that I lived with snow, and I arrived in the winter. I learned to cope with it and made good friends.”

As a member of Supply Chain Club, Globally Minded Student Association, the Student Life Campus Board, and International Student Ambassadors, Gamal has met students from all walks of life. As an international student he says that it is easier to initially communicate with other international students versus a domestic student due to the reserved demeanor most American students have. “If I don’t start a conversation with an American student, he won’t talk to me. International students make conversation no matter what. It’s good for me because in our culture we like to talk.”

The three presenters hope to challenge the stereotypes that they have faced on campus. His enthusiasm lessens when speaking about some of the misunderstandings that are prevalent from students, saying: “Many Americans don’t know where our country is on a map, and they don’t understand our culture, religion or how friendly we are as a people.”

The presenters aim to highlight controversial topics such as the role of women in Saudi Arabia and stress that Islam is not systematically a part of terrorism. “Our country doesn’t agree with the terrorists throughout the world, and Islam does not promote violence; it promotes peace,” Gamal adds. “I want students to respect my country, and [I want to] educate them,” he says.

While some may find the community of Muslim students at a Catholic campus puzzling, Gamal says that he is comfortable at St. Thomas because it is a private institution that respects all faiths. He also praises the Writing Center and the knowledgeable professors who are connected with companies throughout the Twin Cities. He encourages international students to come to St. Thomas to learn in the dynamic academic environment, and because UST provides an opportunity for international students to present their country, culture and religion.

With an eye to his professional future, Gamal plans to work in the United States upon graduation. He hopes to own his own manufacturing business in Saudi Arabia later in life.

As for his personal life, husband and father-to-be Gamal says that his life philosophy is to “enjoy every day and be the best friend to my kids. Anything I didn’t do, they can. I’ll be behind them and do anything to help them do the things they want to do.”