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Arab students abroad enjoy 'quieter' side of life, studies in Ireland

A few months into studying abroad, you learn a few very important things. First, your home is not the center of the universe; second, every person in your dorm is a potential best friend; and third, most importantly, your parents have been right about several things all along.

After battling several ups and downs, an education abroad can groom a person for almost every challenge that life will throw his or her way. Arab students are no exception to this rule. On a trip to Ireland, we caught up with a few GCC national and Arab students spread across several universities in Ireland, almost all of whom found Ireland a “quieter educational destination.”

Though most GCC students come from a family background that is predominantly conservative, the students manage to find their niche in these countries. The majority of Arab students abroad are Saudi nationals. In 2012 there were 130,000 Saudi students studying abroad, most of them beneficiaries of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program. Those accepted for the King Abdullah Scholarship Program are given a monthly stipend, and the government pays for them to take family with them, while women who receive the awards must travel with a male companion.

According to Education in Ireland, the government body that promotes Ireland as an educational destination, there were 2,474 GCC students studying in Ireland in the 2011-12 academic year.

“The numbers are increasing year by year,” Education in Ireland manager Terry McParland said.

“I think Arab students, girls in particular, prefer Ireland as a destination for higher education because the cultural environment here is much safer as compared to other Western nations. The Irish have a very 'live and let live' sort of policy. Students are free to practice their religion here,” he said.

The breakup of GCC student's in Ireland in 2011-12 was: Oman- 82, Kuwait- 448, Saudi Arabia- 829, Bahrain- 806, Qatar- 40, and UAE 269.

Students are opting to enroll in a wide range of subjects.

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