Students’ viewpoints

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This is the second month in the school year in Saudi Arabia. Thousands of new students are enrolled in all higher education institutions across the nation. Newly accepted college students are settling down as they come across different aspects of university life. Students’ impressions of their college community are important indicators of how successful universities are in terms of providing the necessary tools for building good knowledge and doing well in life.

Students who join English departments in Saudi Arabia are unique because they have decided to learn a foreign language with different literary and cultural implications. In a composition class, I asked my students at Umm Al-Qura University to write an essay about their first years’ experience in college and how that experience changed the way they think and behave. Writing narratives about personal dimensions is among the key steps in the progress of learners of English as a foreign language.

The majority of students mentioned that they were happy to be accepted in the English department because this was what they planned for. Only a few students expressed some kind of dissatisfaction that they ended up here. For example, a student had a dream to study English at King Abdulaziz University- Jeddah, but he was not admitted there because his grades were not good enough. When he joined UQU he “started with a low self-esteem” because he “suffered some kind of anxiety.” Afterwards, things went smoother and he liked it here.

Conversely, some other students have high esteem and a clear vision of what they are up to. Here is how a student introduced himself: “I am a well-organized person and my goal is to gain valuable knowledge and finish University with a very high GPA.” Several other students expressed the same positive feelings. Another student wrote: “My first year in the English department was unforgettable, it prepared me for the university life and made me practice and improve my skills.”

Joining college is a significant step in students’ life and a turning point through which they are more capable of taking responsibility and making decisions. Most of the students mentioned that they faced various challenges at the beginning of their college life. They had difficulties understanding the university system where there is a study plan that they need to stick to. Many students complained about the lack of academic advising which made them select courses that they don’t need to study. The result was wasting their time.

Some other students mentioned that they liked college life because of its flexibility as opposed to high school. Many students found it very appropriate to attend evening classes instead of morning classes because they have jobs to go to in the morning. Another group of students expressed their happiness to get to meet new people and make new friends which made them “more social.”

No doubt that college students’ impressions, attitudes and reactions expressed in their narratives are an important source for improving all the different aspects of university life. Students’ narratives reflect identity development and indicate personality growth which are necessary for their success and learning progress. I think that all higher education institutions should pay more attention to students’ viewpoints and complaints in order to make the essential changes to improve the educational atmosphere and make the learning settings highly motivating.

Fahad Alqurashi, Ph.D.

Department of English

Umm Al-Qura University


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