Bahrain: The pleasures and perils of studying abroad

Although Bahrain has a number of universities, both government and private, many Bahrainis have the opportunity to go abroad to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate studies, often by means of scholarships. One of the first problems they face is that few people know where Bahrain is. In this post we hear about the experiences of three bloggers who have just gone abroad for higher studies, to Japan, Britain and the United States, and a fourth blogger who has been studying in India for some time.

Cradle of Humanity has just gone to study in Cleveland, Ohio, and she is feeling a little frustrated:

I sometimes dread it when people ask where I come from. Not more than 10% of people who hear “Bahrain” as answer have some sort of idea where that country might be, but that’s not my cause of annoyance. For those who know that Bahrain is indeed in the Persian Gulf, there is one thing that comes to mind – wealth. Some people might ask, but it’s those who assume who annoy me the most. For the past two months I made a lot of friends, mainly Indians given the demographics of the student body in my program. Despite the fact that most of these are actually Indian elites, owners of chains of businesses and are wealthy themselves – they love to point out that I must be wealthy. When at some occasions I said just that, it appeared that some have the notion that we’re unnecessarily wealthy, that is, it’s undeserved wealth; while theirs is hard worked for. Oh, and they use Bahrain and Dubai interchangeably.

- Public transport here is not very good, but getting a car is very expensive. I would’ve got one
– Used or new?
– Used, I’m only here for a short period of time.
– Get a new one it’s better
– It’ll be much more expensive
– But you come from Bahrain, you can buy a car!

- You mean you’re not rich?
– Actually, no.
– Everyone in Dubai was rich.
– I don’t know about that, but not everyone in Bahrain is rich.

Yagoob, who has just arrived in Nagoya, has to deal with something even more basic – language:

To be honest, the culture shock has hit me very hard! Hardly anyone I’ve met so far had the slightest knowledge of the English language. I feel like a 21st century caveman, trying to communicate with the most primitive of ways, hand waving and speaking English in a very slow and loud way. […] My dorm room is quite Japanese, extremely tiny and everything is earthquake proof so it’s like living in an aluminium sardine can. Many of the things I have around the room seem to have instructions on it, but all in Japanese so I have no idea how they work so far! […] The subway is quite reminiscent to the London Tube except that it’s much cleaner and a person like me sticks out like a sore thumb (as if a tall fat sweaty hairy Arab wouldn’t stick out anywhere). […] The people of Nagoya seem to have never met a Bahraini before, at least that’s what the people at my dorm office say, although I am surprised that they know where it is (maybe because of the many hard fought battles on the football pitch over the last few years) and when I chatted with one of my Chinese neighbours, ‘Andy’, he said, “Aah, you are from West Asia!” I guess I am…especially when I’m in the Far East.

MuJtAbA AlMoAmEn studies in India, and tells us what he likes about being there:

ربما يكون البعد عن الوطن له سلبياته ، لكنه بلا أدنى شك فله إيجابياته .
تحدثت مراراً عن إيجابيات الاغتراب وسلبياته ، ولست في وارد إعادة تكرار ما كتبت ، لكنني اليوم أكتب بشكل مغاير ، فأريد الكتابة عن التأمل ، عن الهدوء ، وعن القدرة على الإطلاع ، وعن وقت الفراغ الذي أستطيع استثماره .
في البحرين ، بين أهلي وأصحابي ، لا أملك الكثير من الوقت لقراءة الصحف المحلية والعربية والعالمية ، ولا أملك الكثير من الوقت لقراءة الكتب أكانت سيرة ذاتية أم فكرية أم رواية … الخ .
هنا وفي الهند ، حالات التأمل كثيرة ، أشعر غالباً بصفاء ليس له مثيل على مستوى الذهن ، أستطيع التفكير كثيراً، أجد الحلول غالباً لأية مشاكل أو عراقيل تواجهني ، بل الأحلى من ذلك إنني أجد أكثر من طريقة للحل ، فلا أعتمد حلاً واحداً ، بل أستعرض الخيارات التي لدي ، وهذا إن دل على شيء فإنه يدل على حالة الصفاء العقلي والروحي الذي أعيشه .
Perhaps being away from home has its negative aspects, but there is no doubt that there are positive aspects to it too. I have previously discussed the pros and cons of being away from home; I have no intention of repeating myself, and will write about something different today. I want to write about contemplation, calm, the ability to read, and the free time which I can spend usefully.
In Bahrain, among family and friends, I don't have much time to read newspapers, whether local, Arab or international. I also don't have time to read books such as biographies, novels, or those on intellectual topics.
Here in India, there is a lot of time for reflection. I feel mentally calm and I can think a lot – I find solutions for any problems or obstacles I face and what is even sweeter is that I find more than one solution. I don't depend on one only, and weigh my options, and if this proves anything, it is a testimony to the mental and spiritual calmness I live in.

Bride Zone has just arrived in the UK to study, and she is missing home:

…لا أستطيع أن أنكر كم هو صعب الشعور بالاغتراب والابتعاد عن الأرض..
الأرض هي الأرض.. ذلك الكوكب الثالث في المجموعة الشمسية درسناه جميعاً وعلمنا تعريفه علمياً.. ولكن في الواقع أرضنا تلك ليست هي ذاتها عندما تنتقل من مكان إلى آخر.. تلك الأرض التي عشت بين ظهرانيها سنين حياتي كلها بحلوها ومرها.. تلك التي تحمل أهلي وأصحابي أغلى عندي من كل أراضي العالم.. على الرغم من جمال الأرض التي أعيش عليها الآن إلا أنها لا تساوي عندي ذرة من تراب أرضي الغالية..
هنا في بريطانيا الجو جميل.. رأيت فصل الخريف كما لم أره في حياتي قط.. كنا في المدرسة نتعلم أنه في فصل الخريف تتساقط أوراق الأشجار ولكنني لم أر لك بعيني في أرض الواقع سوى هنا.. وبينما نعاني من قلة الأمطار في بلدي فإن المطر هنا يتساقط بين الفينة والآخرى يجعلني أحس بالحياة.. الحياة التي تهبها تلك الأمطار للأرض لتغدو روضة غناء كما هي الآن..
هل أهذي أنا أم أهلوس؟لا أجد رابطاً بين ما كتبته في صفحاتي غير أنها كلمات تزاحمت في عقلي وترجمتها في مساحتي الصغيرة ونافذتي التي أطل بها على العالم.. عذراً أحبتي.. فليس هناك لدي أمر آخر لأتحدث عنه اليوم سوى شوقي وحنيني للأرض والوطن..
I cannot deny how difficult it is to be away from home. The Earth is the Earth, the third planet in the solar system. We all studied that and know it scientifically. But the truth is that our Earth isn't the same when you move from one place to the other. That land where I lived all my life, with its share of good and bad, and which holds my family and friends is more dear to me than all the world's lands. Despite the beauty of the land I live on now – it isn't worth a speck of sand from my beloved country.
Here, in the UK, the weather is lovely. I have seen an autumn like nothing I have seen in my life before. At school we used to study that there was an autumn in which leaves fall from the trees but I have never seen that with my very own eyes except here. And while we suffer from the lack of rain in my country, it regularly rains here and makes me eager for life, a life that is rejuvenated by the rains, which make it the oasis it is now.
Am I hallucinating? I don't see any connection in what I have written on these pages except that they are words that have congested my mind and which I have translated in this small space and this window I look into the world from. Please forgive me my dear ones. There is nothing I want to talk about today except for my love and longing for my land and nation.

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