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- Middle East Political & Social Issues
The Next Generation of Saudi leaders Are In America
The rich kids of Saudi princes or businessmen are their next generation. These are entering colleges and universities now, experiencing many new customs and experiences that they will take with them after graduation. Many will stay, others return to Saudi Arabia, maybe become its leader or in government.
Since 2011, Saudi Arabia has sent 66,000 students to American colleges for their education, which is even more than China. SA has paid them to earn BA's, MA's and Ph.d's on the condition they return to Saudi Arabia to help run their country. The cost of the program launched by its King has come to $5 billion. While some Saudis fear the Western influence that these young people are exposed to while getting their education, most feel it is a good experience. As the current generation slowly fades away and the younger generation comes to power, it would seem there will be a more liberal and free Saudi Arabia. About 33% of its population now has university degrees.
Interviews with some of the grads reflect their feelings. Many Saudi think it was the best four years of their lives, especially the women, who can be free, independent, drive cars, make their own decision. When these women go back, they admit they will miss what America gave them. They hope their own country will change. Some women want to stay abroad, others have families that worry their "Americanized student" will promote more liberal ways and unable to adapt again. What happens many times is that the women return and simply cannot tolerate the society that makes them less free and they leave for Dubai or other countries. Also, because of culture, 40% of the women in Saudi Arabia are unemployed. Jobs for them are very limited. For male students, they return with a totally different vision of what they want their country to be, a better and more free society.
It will be another 10-20 years until this group will be able to reshape Saudi Arabia. The wonderful experiences they had at American colleges will no doubt help influence Saudi culture for a modern world.