Thursday, January 30, 2014

Every journey begins with a single step

After a short flight, we arrived in Dammam. Dammam is located on the Persian Gulf and is a hub for the oil industry in Saudi Arabia. Here, we visited the Jabail industrial city that was a planned city for different corporations to come and place their operations in. It also is equipped for housing all the workers that have and will be coming to work at these various companies. The city is located on the Gulf, so of course, we had to take a photo op.

The next day we went to the Kind Fahd Causeway, which links Saudi Arabia to Bahrain. We could not go all the way to Bahrain but we did go to the little island between them (as far as we were allowed to go). The views of Bahrain waaaaaaay in the distance and Saudi Arabia behind us were pretty breathtaking.

My trip to Saudi Arabia had truly been a blessing. I am going to be sad to go home.


I learned many things during my short visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. First and foremost, the people of KSA aren’t so different from me. I had more in common with the people I met than I thought I would. The people I met in Saudi Arabia were some of the nicest, most welcoming people I have ever met. I’ve made many friends (we keep in touch on Facebook) who I hope to see again someday. Second, Saudi women aren’t shy creatures being held back by men.

The women I met during my time in KSA inspired, and continue to inspire me everyday. Despite restrictions and other obstacles, they are following their dreams and achieving their goals. They are also extremely optimistic and are always positive about the future for women in the Kingdom.

Lastly, I learned that no matter where you come from, where you live, or what your background is, we are all human. This was a life changing experience and I have come back to BU a changed person.

I would like to thank the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Higher Education for arranging this trip. I would also like to thank Nawal Bonomo who has been my MAL advisor and who nominated me for this experience. I can’t thank you enough!!!!

I would also like to thank my family and friends for putting up with “I’M GOING TO SAUDI ARABIA!!!!!” for about three months straight! And lastly, I would like to thank my parents for supporting me every step of the way.

xoxo Maddy


— Madalyn Goss is a junior political science major with a Middle Eastern Studies minor.

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Old Jeddah ... the city that looks like a movie

We got a tour of Old Jeddah today. This part of the city looks like it came out of a movie! The architecture is gorgeous and after seeing all the skyscrapers of Riyadh, it was refreshing to see some really old buildings.

Our tour guide, Sami, took us through the streets of the old city, showing us a traditional style bakery, the shops, and other landmarks. Sami told us many things about the history of Old Jeddah.

For instance, Jeddah means “grandmother” and the Saudi’s believe Eve (as in Adam and Eve) lived and then was buried in Jeddah. Then he took us to the top of King Saud’s old palace where we had tea overlooking the city. As we were leaving, the call to prayer began to play across the city. It was very special for me to be look out across the old city while listening to the call to prayer. I definitely had a “moment.”

The next day, we were surprised with a trip to a private beach on the Red Sea. The water was so blue, and when we swam out into the ocean, you could see the coral and fish swimming below you. The trip to the Red Sea was a nice relaxing break from our busy schedule.

xoxo Maddy

— Madalyn Goss is a junior political science major with a Middle Eastern Studies minor.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Why I chose BU

As a student from Bloomsburg who grew up in Kutztown I had a lot of insight to the state school scene. I had been to various buildings of Kutztown University and have lived the college town life since I was in elementary school. I do not have negative things to say about the university, as it was a big part of my childhood, however I always felt like it was normal and nothing exciting. I needed to go somewhere new and meet new people.

I started to apply to private schools but kept Bloomsburg in the back of my mind because my aunt lived in the area and my mom liked the idea of it. I got accepted to all the private schools I applied to, as well as Bloomsburg University. I thought if I had to make a real decision I would be wise to visit them all, starting with Bloomsburg.

My first step onto campus was in the academic quad. I immediately noticed all the large buildings and beautiful artwork galore. As my mom and I made our way throughout the campus I was nothing short of impressed. I loved every aspect of the campus. I thought the size of the campus was perfect, big enough, yet everything was still close and within walking distance. I thought the placement of all the buildings were smart, having the dorms all together on the lower end of campus and the academic buildings higher up.

The library was impeccable and the Student Services Center was central to campus and had everything a student could need. Besides the layout and beauty of campus, something else really caught my eye. The environment on campus was indescribable. I was not even a student yet and I could feel a sense of pride in the air. That pride has not left me since that day, I knew as we drove home from our visit that Bloomsburg University was the school for me.

When weighing your decisions upon choosing the right university for you, I believe you will know what school fits you best. I knew leaving Bloomsburg I had found the best university for me and even after visiting other schools, I knew none could compare. Another decision to consider, which was extremely important to me, was if the school was considered a “suitcase college” or not, meaning the students went home very often.

While you will find students going home often at any university, I would never consider Bloomsburg that type of school. There is so much to get involved with on and off campus it makes it hard to leave often, if at all during the semester. Having my friends from school around me all the time has made my college experience even more meaningful and one that I will never forget. Lastly, and I could not say this enough times, do NOT make your decisions on where your friends or boyfriend/girlfriend are going. You need to make this decision for yourself and where you fit best.

Do not let others sway you to make decisions that might not make you happy in the long run. Be true to yourself and you will have no regrets. Hope to see you in the fall!

— Sierra Kern, Class of 2015 #FutureHusky

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A night walk to the Red Sea

On our last day in Riyadh, we begin with a trip to the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce. This meeting was a very interesting one. We talked about business and employment in Saudi Arabia.

In Saudi Arabia, there is a large amount of foreign workers in construction, maintenance, and other “blue-collar” jobs, because others tend to not be interested in working those jobs. This is resulting in high unemployment among Saudi Arabians. We also discussed the progress women are making in the job sector. The restrictions placed on women who wanted to work made it almost impossible for them to work in the past. As time went on, these restrictions became less and less. While there are still restrictions on working women, progress is happening.

We then traveled to Al-Yamamah University on the outskirts of Riyadh. The campus is segregated so the girls in our group went to the girl’s side and boys went to the boy’s side. We were treated to a tour of the girl’s campus and then we were given a presentation. This presentation was the final aspect of three female students senior projects. They created an App “Tamween” that allowed people to shop for groceries on their phone. Their project was very intricately designed, and well thought out. In fact, they were entering into a contract to sell Tamween already. And they hadn’t even graduated yet. That puts my little PowerPoint presentations to shame! Those young businesswomen really impressed me.

After our visit to YU, we went back to the hotel and packed for our flight to Jeddah, our next city. Jeddah is located on the Red Sea on the west coast of Saudi Arabia. It’s about a hour and half flight from Riyadh. I was sad to say goodbye to Riyadh but I’m ready to go to Jeddah, which is an older city than Riyadh.

After we arrived in Jeddah, a few of us could not wait to see the Red Sea, so we walked across the road from our hotel and walked along a sort of boardwalk. What surprised me was that there were so many families out having picnics and playing with their kids. It was like 11:30 p.m.!

Our guides told us that Jeddah is more laid back and people stay out until the early morning hours and wake up later in the day. And in the summer months when it gets really hot, the people of Jeddah siesta in the afternoon like some European countries. I could definitely get used to this kind of schedule! We were able to see the King Fahd’s Fountain, which is located in the Red Sea. King Fahd’s Fountain is the largest fountain in the world and shoot water 1,024 feet in the air. It was spectacular to see!

It’s a busy day tomorrow, so goodnight!

xoxo Maddy

— Madalyn Goss is a junior political science major with a Middle Eastern Studies minor.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

A toast with “Saudi Champagne”

We were up early again today to go visit the U.S. embassy in the morning. All of the embassies in Riyadh are in a compound called the Diplomatic Quarter. We weren’t allowed to take pictures once we were in the compound for security reasons (so no pictures there ☹).

We met with some Foreign Service officers who are stationed in Riyadh and we discussed Saudi Arabia/U.S. relations and discussed problems that currently face Saudi Arabia. It was interesting to get the perspective from the U.S. and then compare their perspective to the Saudi peoples’ perspective.

We then went to the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. Here, we got to see very old Islamic documents that have been preserved by the center. We also got to see how old documents are restored. We were shown the deep freezer that kills all the microbes that feed on paper and then watched specialists restore the actual documents.

We then drove to an ancient part of the city that is currently being restored. We weren’t allowed to enter the city due to construction, but it was awesome to see the restoration from the outside. Because Riyadh seems to be under construction, being built, and everything seems new, it was refreshing to see the historic part of Riyadh being taken care of and restored.

Later that afternoon, we visited a NGO, called the Princess Anood Cultural Center. Meshail, the young woman I met yesterday at KSU introduced us to this NGO because she volunteers for the youth program Warif, which is run through the Princess Anood Cultural Center.

There, we discussed how volunteering and charity is usually viewed as an activity that is done during holy festivals or other religious occasions and not something that is done regularly. The younger generation is becoming more active in volunteering on a regular basis and volunteering is becoming more popular in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia doesn’t really celebrate New Year’s Eve so we just had some “Saudi Champagne” at dinner. Saudi champagne is like a sparkling apple cider drink that is popular in Saudi Arabia (since there is no alcohol). While I fell asleep before midnight in Saudi, I was awake at 8 a.m., which was midnight in the U.S., and I got to watch the ball drop (New York Times Square).

Happy New Year!

xoxo Maddy

— Madalyn Goss is a junior political science major with a Middle Eastern Studies minor.

#BUAbroad #HuskyUnleashed #CoCurricularLearning

Monday, January 6, 2014

Whew, what a day!

Today we visited King Saud University. KSU was the first institute of higher education created in the Kingdom in 1957. They have over 50,000 students studying at the university, and yes, women go there too.

The girls of the group were sent to the girl’s campus and the boys went to the boy’s campus. Because the girls are completely separated from the boys, once in the girl’s campus, the women can remove their abayas and hijiabs.

Our tour was given by a group of young women who were members of the Student Partnership Program at the university. These young women were absolutely amazing! They are leaders amongst their peers and they have high aspirations. One of the graduates of the university, Rana, who lead our group, is currently teaching at the university. Another young woman Meshail, goes to school at KSU and volunteers part time at the Warif Youth Center.

We were taken on small visits to the central library, many different student organizations, and other buildings around the girls campus. The campus is brand new and some of the colleges have yet to move to the new facilities. The campus was absolutely breathtaking. I think was surprised me most was how driven these young women are. We as Americans see that they can’t drive and wear veils and we automatically think that they have no lives.

Obviously, they would like the right to drive, but more importantly they want to be able to be on the same playing field as men professionally, have careers, be more involved and included in the political system, and have more representation within the Kingdom. Before you judge these women, lift the “veil” and look underneath.

They blew me away, inspired me, and they changed my life. Insha’Allah (God willing) I will keep in touch with them. We then visited the National Museum and saw many antiquities of Saudi Arabia. I learned about the old city, the Bedouin lifestyle, and the Hajj pilgrimage. It was very interesting to learn about pre-Islamic as well as Islamic Saudi Arabia.

In the evening, we went to the Masmak Fort when in 1902, Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman bin Faisal Al Saud captured the fort an therefore restored Al Saud control over Riyadh. It was a lovely first day and I’m already in love with this city …

xoxo Maddy

— Madalyn Goss is a junior political science major with a Middle Eastern Studies minor.

#BUAbroad #HuskyUnleashed #CoCurricularLearning

Hello Riyadh, nice to meet you

My plane was delayed a little but we still took off around seven. This was my first international flight, so I was a little nervous. Thankfully, there were no problems and turbulence was light. I enjoyed watching our flight progress on the small TV screen in front of me.

I got to see the sunrise …

The top of the Alps …

The Red Sea …

And finally … Saudi Arabia!

Once we touched down, got through security and costumes, we were transported to our hotel in Riyadh. I enjoyed the ride to the heart of the city …

After an exhausting day of traveling, we were graciously welcomed into our hotel. We then all had dinner at the hotel restaurant. Tomorrow begins our official visits, so until then …

ZZZzzzzzz Maddy

— Madalyn Goss is a junior political science major with a Middle Eastern Studies minor.

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

First semester is in the books

The first semester has quickly drawl to a close. The library was recently crowded with people studying (cramming) for final exams and people holding their breath praying that they were able to obtain the grade that they so desired.

An update from the last blog: I finally visited the burrito shop and it did not disappoint! I have been to ready go burrito more than once and it may be my favorite restaurant in downtown Bloomsburg. I also ate at Steph’s Subs and Balzano’s. Both were enjoyable but so different. Steph’s Subs is more laid back and on the lower priced side where as Balzano’s has a more mature crowd and is on the pricier end. The food is worth the price though, as it is Italian food that will remind you of your grandmother’s home cooked meals.

Taking Advantage of Opportunities

As soon as you step foot onto campus, many opportunities become available. It is simply finding the opportunities that are of your interest. The activities allow you to meet new people and aid in adjusting to campus. I have participated in a variety of activities on campus including the Color Run, Bocce Bash, Best Buddies, and the Penn State Hershey Primary Care Day. The color run was a morning run where dye colored your clothes. It raised money for cancer while providing a fun outing with friends.

Both Bocce Bash and Best Buddies are opportunities to interact with special needs adults. They are rewarding experiences and provide friendships with not only the other students on campus who participate but the special needs buddies as well. At Penn State Hershey Primary Care Day, pre medical students were exposed to the lives of medical students and what it is like to be in the field of primary care. All the opportunities allow for you to meet people with like interests and make the transition to college smoother as you begin to form a family and support system on campus.

Adjusting College Classes

College classes are different than high school classes, but they are not scary or unmanageable. College classes are about time management above all else. Classes only meet about three hours a week, which means that there is less time in class than high school, but the same amount of material still needs to covered. A person must be ready to learn at a more rapid pace and devote some time outside of class to developing a deeper understanding. This time is available though, as the classes do not meet as often. A person is able to succeed as long as you manage time well and devote time in between classes to completing work. You can still have free time on nights and weekends as long as during the day you treat the day as a normal school day that lasts eight hours.

Dorm Life and Roommate(s)

It is an adjustment to move into a place with so many people close together and not know the people. At first it is strange to walk to the shower in a robe or towel with people all around, but soon the fears disappear and it becomes routine. The key is to leave your room and meet the people in your hall. They are your support system, neighbors and family for the next year if you get to know them.

Most people in the halls want to get to know you, you just have to give them the opportunity! You may not be best friends with everyone, but someone one the floor most likely can be that best friend. Do not be afraid to sit in the lounge, stop by and talk to the person with their door open, or participate in dorm events. These people are adjusting to college just like you and there is no better way to adjust than to form a family.

Reflecting Back and Looking Forward

My first semester was a success to me and more than anything a learning experience. College is about learning, but there are also times that one needs to take a break and have fun. Grades are important, but one needs to focus on being well rounded: get good grades, volunteer and engage in clubs. I feel that I have started a good balance and hope to continue to maintain the balance in the future. I think that college can only get better as now I feel fully adapted to college life.

    — Morgan Lewis is a biochemistry major with a pre-medical studies concentration.

#FutureHusky #HuskyUnleashed