I am a Saudi female doctoral student who is a member of a family that has always encouraged learning, and always shown openness to other civilisations and cultures. I studied the English language and literature (Shakespeare! Dickens! The Brontës!) for my first degree, and in 2008 I was awarded a King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP) scholarship to complete a Master’s, then a PhD, in Melbourne, Australia.
In 2008, when I was awarded the KASP opportunity, I felt that good fortune had abandoned me. As I prepared for my information-seeking journey, finding relevant, reliable and understandable sources of information that answered my particular needs was a frustrating, infuriating, and unnecessarily time-consuming task. Why was it so difficult to get information about academic offers for myself and my eldest son, or information about Arabic schools in Melbourne for my three younger children? Could I find accommodation suitable for my large family, or would I arrive homeless in Melbourne?
One of the conditions for an overseas scholarship is the availability of a Mahram (male guardian). But why was it such a hurdle to procure a visa for my husband, who has continually welcomed and supported my academic and professional career, to the extent that he left his job in order to travel abroad with me. Was there something wrong with me, or with Saudi Arabia?
In Saudi Arabia in 2008, part of the difficulty was that there were few Arabic online sources. Essential information in forums such as Mubt3th and Muktameel was inadequate. Social media was unpopular and viewed negatively; and although my English was good, I didn’t know how to send emails or use search engines.
Due to the increased number of Saudi scholarship students and the unprecedented widespread presence of social media tools and technologies, Saudi Arabia is now rapidly modernising its information resources, but there are still, ten years later, several difficulties for new international students.
As part of my Masters degree, I investigated the use of Facebook by five Saudi Female International Students (SFIS) in Melbourne and discovered that SFIS used social media to find information, not just to socialise.
This led to my growing interest in the information needs and information-seeking behaviour of Saudi female students in Australia, especially as I had such challenging experiences myself. My interest became more focused with my first journal article, examining how Saudi females in Australia use social networking sites in their transient migration; and peaked when a search in the literature to find answers to my questions.
To conclude, from my research experience I would like to send this message to international student service providers, as a female international student. They need to know that we are unique and different, from not only other female international students, but also from Saudi male students.