From Saudi Arabia to New Zealand
In 2009, I moved from Saudi Arabia to Dunedin to live with a family while studying at Otago University’s English Language Centre.
Although it was my very first time travelling away from home, settling in was much easier than I had anticipated. In fact, the humbleness of New Zealand society allowed me to blend in easily and practice English freely despite my different cultural and religious background. Making mistakes like mispronouncing words, mixing up sentences, or failing to explain ideas properly was never a concern. Had I not studied English in NZ, I would not have passed all English levels and become qualified to pursue my academic study in such a short amount of time.
New Zealanders are kind, relaxed, and open-minded. They enjoy life in a way that made me feel that they literally have “no worries”!
From traditional to innovative
My experience thus far helped when I joined the University of Otago through the Foundation Year for Health Sciences. By then I had overcome cultural shock and homesickness; however, I faced another obstacle that I call “academic shock”. New Zealand’s educational style was completely different to what I was used to when studying in Saudi.
New Zealand’s education concentrates on developing a student’s competency using a different approach to promote practical and applicable knowledge. For instance, the academic advisors occupied their time with identifying a student’s goals, visualising their future, implementing theories in practical assignments, relying on scientifically proven research, and many other innovative methods. The lecturers were not concerned with attendance records, and online “blackboard” access made lecture materials available at any time. I have come to realize that routine-based techniques are outdated and seem to drag students away from the main objective of true education.
The most important lesson I learnt is that switching mentality to the innovative approach is key to reaching my career potential.
From changing to influencing
While studying towards a BSc in Food Science with a minor in Consumer Food Science, I was influenced by the Kiwi lifestyle which revolves around health and fitness. My health awareness was developed through my academic studies as well as interacting with many of the PE specialists and fitness enthusiasts around me.
The majority of my friends, classmates, neighbours, or even people I met in public places or at the gym in New Zealand were living a healthy lifestyle. This enabled us to discuss and share valuable information. For instance, I had many interesting conversations with PE specialists which allowed me to learn the scientific side of physical exercise, and vice versa. I had many occasions where I explained the science behind food production and processing to help them make the right choices when buying groceries.
This priceless information helped me build a lifestyle that made the impossible possible. I lost 45kg of unhealthy weight and won the bronze medal in the national bodybuilding championships in 2013! Also, I started training a soccer team of Saudi students. We started out in the 4th division of the soccer league, won 4th and 3rd leagues consecutively, and ended up in the 2nd division in less than 3 years. Not only did New Zealand change me, it has also given me the desire to help the Saudi society become as health aware as the NZ society.
So, after graduation and returning back to Saudi Arabia I chose to coach the age classes (below 16yrs) at a local football club. I did this because I truly believe that once youth are inspired to implement healthy practices, they will maintain it into adulthood, going on to deliver the message to the next generation.
New Zealand society inspired me to have a positive influence on people around me by sharing knowledge and increasing awareness of a healthy lifestyle.
From coaching to manufacturing
When I got to the stage of considering how to further influence the Saudi society’s health awareness, I decided to switch my profession from coaching to food manufacturing.
Job hunting in Saudi Arabia was not easy. This was not due to my lack of previous work experience like many Saudi graduates–I have been lucky enough to deliver outstanding results in my coaching career which demonstrates my dedication and work ethics.
The problem for me was that employers did not understand the high-quality education that New Zealand has given me. In fact, some employers did not even know where New Zealand is located on the map!
Thankfully, I now work as a production team manager at the Middle East’s largest food manufacturing company, Almarai. This company knows New Zealand as it already has business relationships with New Zealand companies and organisations and has hired many Kiwis, some of whom have also graduated from Otago! I have recently completed the Graduate Professional training programme in the first year of employment and I am now working towards more success in my career with them.
Although my time in Dunedin has come to an end, I carry with me these lessons–an appreciation for outcome-based education, innovative thinking, and collaborative learning. And while I’m now back in Saudi Arabia, pursuing a career in food manufacturing, I know these skills will stand me in good stead. I will always be grateful to the people of New Zealand for all that I learnt during my studies there, and I hope to return in the future.
Thank you New Zealand, my dream is starting to become a reality…
About the contributors
Abdulrahman Albeshri studied Food Science at Otago University, Dunedin. After graduating he returned to Saudi Arabia where he coached soccer before pursuing a career in food manufacturing. Abdulrahman "will always be grateful to the people of New Zealand for all that I learnt during my studies there, and I hope to return in the future."