FARMINGTON — Dhoha Bediwi, a junior from Al Ahsa, Saudi Arabia, has always wanted to try new things. She will do that over the next nine months while an exchange student at Mt. Blue High School.
“Change is a good thing. It can make us learn about life. I always wanted to live ‘The American Dream’ and I’ve been studying English for years. Why not?” she said about her decision to study in America.
Dhoha attends a private all-girls’ school at home where the class size is 15. She was a member of Toastmasters International, a member of the debate team, president of the student council and part of her city’s volunteering committee.
She has studied English since the second grade. There, the teachers are the ones who move from class to class.
“Here, I get to roam. Students can also have their cell phones during school,” she said.
Dhoha lives in an Eastern province near the Arabian seacoast. Summer temperatures are 40 degrees Celsius (100+ degrees Fahrenheit) and in winter 6 or 7 (43-45). The population in the region is two million.
“My country is a monarchy. Each city has a prince who rules. City officers, similar to your senators and representatives, are elected by those who have the right to vote,” she said.
Dhoha has four older sisters ranging in age from 21 to 28. The three oldest live and work in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. The oldest works in insurance, the next in a pharmacy. The youngest studied in Qatar and is a lawyer.
Saudi Arabia uses a different calendar year, Dhoha said. It is based on Muhammad’s immigration from Mecca to Medina where his new life started.
People of the Islam faith celebrate two major holidays each year, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. The first marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. The second honors the willingness of Ibriham (Abraham) to obey God’s command to sacrifice his son Isaac.
“As part of our religion, we give the poor some of our meat for this holiday, to help with poverty,” she said.
James and Amanda Beane with their son, Gantley, are Dhoha’s host family. They met each other on September 9.
“She’s been really sweet. It’s been fun having her here, learning about her culture,” Amanda said.
Dhoha has noticed simple differences in the two countries so far.
“The honesty, directness of people here. Their sense of humor. I can’t always tell if someone is joking.
“There are no street lights in small towns here. Everything closes so early. In Saudi Arabia the shops stay open until 11 or 12 at night.
“It’s nice. It makes you feel you have to live in the moment, spend time with family. It’s the complete opposite at home because of the morning heat,” she said.
Dhoha has never seen snow. She recently went shopping and tried on winter jackets.
“Jackets are so heavy, thick! How can you walk in them?” she asked.
Dhoha had never been to an Olive Garden restaurant before visiting the one in Augusta. She had a Pop-Tart at school, something she doesn’t have at home. She tried a candied apple and doughboys at Farmington Fair.
“They were really good,” she said.
At Mt. Blue Dhoha joined the Interact Club and the International Students’ Club. She looks forward to volunteering in the community. She is available to talk to groups about her country and religion.
Dhoha can be reached through the newspaper by emailing email@example.com.
“I hope to change peoples’ views or stereotypes about my country, my religion,” she said. “Farmington is a really nice place. I’ve already met a lot of nice people,” she said.