Kolod Alijohani

Meet Kolod Alijohani. She is a current EWU student and a Study Abroad Alumn who was featured on the EWU Admissions Blog.

Below you will find the original story

Kolod Aljohani, an international student from Saudi Arabia, came to Eastern Washington University with her husband three years ago. When her husband graduated seven months ago with his mechanical engineering degree and had to return home and look for a job, Aljohani decided to stay and finish her degree.

She has invested too much effort into her American education to give up now: two years of classes toward a technical communication major, as well as a double minor in visual communication design and German.

“I needed to adapt to the situation, not give up,” she said.

But Aljohani’s family was nervous about her staying in the US, and some family members even tried to convince her it was wrong to stay on her own. She says that Saudi Arabia has old-fashioned ideas about women, but points out there is also open-mindedness, otherwise, they wouldn’t send her here.

Yet new funding restrictions have made it harder for Aljohani and others who are midway through their degrees. Under the new minister of education, the rules for scholarships for studying abroad have changed.

“Many Saudi students had to return home,” Aljohani said. The new rules said she had to be 70 percent of the way toward her degree to qualify for a tuition scholarship, so she enrolled in 24 credits, almost double a normal full-time class load, as well as working.

Aljohani is confident she made the right choice, though she emphasizes that a huge part of her strength comes from her parents, husband and siblings.

While her tuition is still funded, living expenses would no longer be covered. She could have asked her family for assistance, but she wanted to prove that she could support herself. Aljohani has worked hard to establish a new sense of independence, something she says she never had back home.

“While my family is not wealthy, I never had to work to support myself. Everything was provided for me. But here I have to pay for rent, for food,” she said. “I just paid a power bill for the first time!”

Studying abroad has given her a love of travel and languages. This summer she is studying in Germany for a month. It will be her first time in Europe (not counting airport stopovers).

Since her second quarter at EWU, Aljohani has been working as an EWU Global Ambassador for the Office of Global Initiatives. She helps new international students interpret English, find their way around campus and visit Spokane, as well as other cities like Portland and Seattle. Seattle is her favorite city; she claims she has visited about twenty times in the past three years.

“I love Alki Beach, and Seattle has a lot of Middle Eastern restaurants,” she said.

Aljohani takes friends and students on trips, and they stay with an American host family in west Seattle. Aljohani has become a road warrior; besides Seattle, she’s driven to Los Angeles three times, and even cruised down to Las Vegas once.

“I’m afraid of heights. I hate flying, but I love driving! It never gets old,” she said.

Yet a fear of heights is just another challenge Aljohani is working to master—three days a week you can find her climbing at the EWU EPIC Climbing Wall.

The independence, her job at the Office of Global Initiatives, the class load, and being so far from home cannot be easy. But Aljohani insists it has made her stronger.