Saudi Arabia Scholarships
Birthplace of Islam and Oil-Rich
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is still a monarchy, and its government exerts tight control over economic production, most of which is related to oil. Saudi Arabia has about 20% of the world’s reserves of oil and is the world’s single largest exporter. While that has brought the country wealth, the lack of diversification leaves Saudi Arabia vulnerable to fluctuations in world oil prices.
The Saudi ruler, King Abdullah (alternate spelling Abdallah), has demonstrated commitment to economic, political, and educational reform, further opening the country to foreign investment. He responded to the political instability that spread throughout the Arab world in 2011 by creating a massive ($130 billion) social welfare program as a means of tempering demand for structural changes in the Saudi government. Women also obtained the vote, and for now the king has secured his throne.
America and Saudi Arabia have maintained strong ties for many years, and their relationship is currently strengthened by perception of a common menace in Iran’s nuclear ambitions and by growing American dependence on Saudi oil. There is one note that should be made for foreign students in the country: female students must be accompanied by a male guardian, which can complicate arrangements.
The Boren Awards program consists of Boren Scholarships, for undergraduates, and Fellowships, for graduate students. The Borens focus on sending students to areas of the world considered vital to American interests for area and language studies, the list of preferred countries includes Saudi Arabia, and Arabic, the official language of the country, is also on the Boren languages list.
The Borens are funded by the National Security Education Program as part of an effort to train students for careers in government security, and there is a service requirement attached to the offer of financial aid. You may be matched with work in government departments like Defense, Homeland Security, State, or even find a berth in the intelligence community. This is an excellent opportunity to begin a career in government service or just build your professional resume.
Scholarships bring up to $20,000 and fellowships up to $30,000, so there is a great deal of competition for these awards.
The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program is also federally funded, by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The Gilmans’ goal is to diversify the population of American students engaged in foreign study by paying the way of financially needy undergraduates and other underrepresented groups. Those groups include students with disabilities, those in science and engineering programs, and students at two-year institutions.
The Gilman effort awards more than 2,300 scholarships of up to $5,000 each every year. If your studies will include a language on the Critical Need list, like Arabic or Persian, you may also receive a $3,000 supplement for that purpose. You must receive a Pell Grant in order to qualify for a Gilman, you must be a U. S. citizen or national, and your course of foreign study must last between four week and one academic year.
Many universities providing international study options offer scholarships suitable for traveling to Saudi Arabia. For example, Washington State University’s Education Abroad department has posted a list of available scholarships, and if you submit one application, you will be considered for all awards. The list includes these choices:
- The Marie Wright Brown Baarslag Scholarship for Non-Traditional Locations gives priority for studies in Africa and the Middle East. You must be at least a sophomore during your time abroad, and you must stay for at least one semester.
- The Aaron Iverson Scholarship seeks a financially needy student who has not yet traveled outside the U. S. and plans to remain abroad for an entire year.
- The Education Abroad Endowment–Hubman Scholarship goes to the best qualified undergraduate who has both financial need and a GPA of at least 2.5.
Portland State University’s Office of International Affairs provides the Elizabeth Ducey Scholarship of up to $600 for study in the Middle East. You must show satisfactory results in your study of a Middle Eastern language like Arabic to qualify.
The University of Arkansas’ King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies (MEST) provides some scholarship funding for both undergraduates and graduate students who wish to study in the region. The undergraduate scholarships go to MEST majors who combine academic excellence (a GPA of 3.5 in MEST courses and 3.3 overall) with intellectual curiosity and a commitment to the MEST program. Graduate students should discuss funding directly with the King Fahd Center office (Fahd was a former king of Saudi Arabia).
Evergreen State College’s Office of International Programs & Services has established the Rachel Corrie Memorial Scholarship for undergraduates working to improve relations with the Middle East and foster peace in the region. The scholarship brings $1,000.
Chatham University’s International Affairs department gives out the Benter Initiative for Global Citizenship to students taking language and culture courses in a predominantly Muslim area of the Middle East (Saudi Arabia is 100% Muslim). Awards are $2,000, possibly more for those who can show financial need. You must stay abroad for at least one term, or 12 weeks during the summer.
NOTE: If your country of choice is under an official travel warning, that may affect any applications you submit. Please check application requirements carefully. The latest travel warning extended for Saudi Arabia is dated May 18, 2012 and has not been rescinded as of September 26, 2012.