English Language Institute sees increased enrollment of Saudi Arabian women


Colette-Janae Buck

Lama Al Dahban (left) and Zahra Almarzooq (right) are two of the female students in ELI at EWU

By Colette-Janae Buck, Copy Editor

EWU’s English Language Institute (ELI) has seen an increased enrollment of Saudi Arabian women in recent years.

Neil Heyen, Director of the English Language Institute, said six years ago the percentage of studying female students was around 10 to 20 percent. Now, the percentage of female Saudi Arabian students enrolled is estimated to be 55 to 60 percent.

“I think [enrollment has increased] just because in the past it was more common for students to be men,” said Heyen. “It’s been more difficult for women to travel internationally as Saudi Women have to have a sponsor, but I think the [sponsors] have become more liberal.”

In Saudi Arabia, women are required to have permission of a male guardian, such as their husband, father or another male family member when traveling domestically, internationally or when just going shopping.

The ELI operates through EWU’s department of modern languages and helps international students learn English reading, writing and speaking skills, while also helping them acclimate to the culture of the United States.

For the Saudi Arabian women who study at the ELI, most said they were encouraged to study English in the United States by their friends or other students who had studied at EWU.

Zahra Almarzooq, an ELI student of 10 months, said many of her friends recommended she study English at EWU.

“I heard from many students that [EWU] is a good university, that it provides good curriculum and has a good structure,” Almarzooq said.

Almarzooq is interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. She hopes to then pursue a master’s degree and find a job either in the United States or in Saudi Arabia.

Lama Al Dahban, an ELI student from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has been studying at the ELI for nine months.

Previously graduating from King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with a bachelor’s degree in law, Al Dahban said she wants to study a master’s in Business administration and enjoys the culture of EWU.

“EWU has a good program to study at,” said Al Dahban. “I liked that [EWU] was a small town, and everyone here is friendly, kind and helpful.”

Al Dahban said one of her main reasons for studying English at EWU was because she has a sibling also studying at the ELI.

Zahra Al Hamili has been studying English through the ELI since the beginning of fall quarter and plans to study physical therapy.  

Al Hamili said she heard from several friends that EWU was a good school to study through, and she hopes to make a lot of international friends and have good memories with them.

Khadija Alahssai is an ELI student from Dammam, Saudi Arabia who is interested in studying design.

“I want study design and then find a job in the United States,” said Al Hssai. “If I don’t get a job here, I hope to get a better one in Saudi Arabia.”

Students who graduate from the ELI are encouraged to stay at EWU, continue their studies and graduate with either a bachelor’s or graduate degree.

Another prominent factor as to why many students choose to come to EWU’s english language program is because they feel as though they have to.

“The english language is a modern language,” said Fatimah Alsultan. “We speak English with everyone.”

Alsultan has been studying English at the ELI for over two months.

Dalia Alzanbaqi, a prospective interior design student and ELI student, said it is important for her to learn English because the world is a global culture and it is important to know how to speak English as it is widely spoken.

“I feel like I have to learn English so I can communicate with others,” said Alzanbaqi. “I think it’s good to learn different languages too; it’s healthy.”