Faisal Al-Dawoud: From Saudi Arabia to PSU

March, 2011

by Jennifer Philion and Rebecca Chappell ’11

Imagine you’re 19 years old, riding in the car with your family on a trip to the city, when someone from the company at which you’ve applied to work calls to say, “You’re hired.” But the conditions of your hire require you to leave your home and travel halfway around the world to a new country, attend a school you know nothing about, and learn a new language.

It may sound like the plot of a book or movie, but for Faisal Al-Dawoud, it was real. After some soul-searching and talking it over with his family, Al-Dawoud accepted the company’s offer and enrolled in the ELS Language Center program at PSU in October 2009. A business major with a concentration in accounting, Al-Dawoud must complete his education by 2014 with a 2.5 GPA or higher to begin work with the company.

A Sense of Community

Al-Dawoud’s demeanor is relaxed and friendly, but he admits it wasn’t easy adjusting to college life. He is from a family of nine brothers and sisters; his aunts, uncles, and cousins are next-door neighbors—he comes from a close-knit community. The shift from a home full of family to a double room in Mary Lyon Hall was difficult at first, but it didn’t take long for Al-Dawoud to make friends and feel part of the PSU community. “To be someone who is different, everyone wants to know you,” he says. “I have Saudi friends, I have American friends, I hang out with my teammates from soccer, and my teachers and ELS friends have all helped me a lot.”

While classes can be difficult, Al-Dawoud enjoys the challenge of mastering a new language through the ELS program. “My English is not perfect, but I’m trying.”

Al-Dawoud has been open to the wide range of new experiences life at Plymouth State has offered. He tried acting for the first time in last year’s Educational Theatre Collaborative (ETC) production of Godspell. He attended a Bruins game in Boston. He has explored the mountains, gone hiking and cross-country skiing, and is ready to give snowboarding a try. “I think it will be fun.”

In between these adventures, it is the simple, small things about Plymouth and the PSU campus that have impressed Al-Dawoud most. “Back home, when I walk, nobody smiles,” he says. “Here it’s totally different. When I walk, everybody is smiling, everybody says, ‘Hello’ and ‘How are you?’ That’s very good. It’s a good thing in Plymouth.”

“A girl saw me dancing to Arabic music in Mary Lyon and told me about Godspell,” Al-Dawoud says. “I thought, ‘Why not?’” John Anderson photo.

A Home Away From Home

Although Al-Dawoud knew nothing about Plymouth State before he arrived here, the people, the campus, and the community inspired him to enroll and become a fully matriculated student. “My company chose PSU, and I liked it,” he says. “When two of my friends who came with me last year chose to move to Georgia, I chose to stay because I love it here. I love the people; I love the society. I love this place.”


  1. Dear Faisal,

    I address my comment to you with tears running down my cheeks. I am hugely invested in my work at the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission and wanted you to know that reading your article is worth every minute invested.

    Your story is amazing and I fully relate to it as I was in your shoes only 6 years ago with two teenage children and all three of us felt exactly like you do.

    I want you to know that we at the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission are very proud of you and salute your efforts and look forward to attending your graduation and watching you follow a professional path of enormous success.

    We wish you success in all your future endeavors.

    Sincere regards,

    Marie-Claude Svaldi

    Assistant Director, ESL Institutes & Academic Placement Department

  2. Faisaaaaal I miss uuuuu so much
    You look Good man
    I hope You didn’t forget us, RIGHT ?

    Your friend
    Ziyad A. Azzahim
    Medical student, KSU, Saudi Arabia

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