‘My Favorite Thing About the U.S. is Freedom’

Mohammed Alkhateeb, a freshman international computer science student at Youngstown State University, originally hails from a Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Despite the 7,000 some miles between the two countries, Alkhateeb is no stranger to America.

In 1999, Alkhateeb visited the United States with his family, at the request of his pregnant mom who wanted to give birth to his brother in the U.S. After his mom gave birth, they returned to Riyadh — with his brother now an American citizen.

Alkhateeb has also been exposed to American and western culture throughout his life. In Saudi Arabia, he was taught English through the various stages of his schooling, and, due to the rapid spread of American culture, he was exposed to both American movies and shows from a young age. His knowledge of American culture is what peaked his interest in coming back here to study abroad.

He chose to come to YSU after hearing an old friend from school, who now attends YSU, brag about all the great things at YSU. Alkhateeb then decided that this was the place for him.

“My favorite thing about the U.S. is freedom, how you can go from one thing to another, and being rich off of following your dreams. You can make great things happen here off of one small idea. In the U.S., a person will give up their lives to follow their passion as young as 16 or 17 years old. In my country, there are people who have those talents, but they keep it underwater,” Alkhateeb said.

Even though Alkhateeb loves the US, he cannot help but feel homesick. He talks to his family at least once a week.

“To help with my homesickness, I participate in my biggest passions in life, which are music, prayer and soccer. These things help relieve me,” he said.

Though he is far from home, he has not strayed in his dedication to his religion — Islam. He still prays fives times a day, as well as always trying to put into practice his beliefs on a day-to-day basis. He has tried to seek out a place of worship in the Valley, but, for numerous reasons, he didn’t feel comfortable. Now, he simply prays with a couple of students and fellow practitioners of the faith.

“Islam believes that praying with 2 people is just as effective as praying with a hundred,” he said.

Alkhateeb goes on to explain that, culturally, the U.S. is radically different than his home.

“The hardest thing is approaching women because where I am from, you do not interact with women often, and you are not allowed to approach them,” he said.

Despite the culture differences and his homesickness, he has had no problem making friends, and his social life is healthy, thanks in part to YSU’s International Living Learning Community.

“I like how the ILLC helps us international students by planning events such as the coffee hour and parties, so we can make new friends and become more comfortable with living here,” Alkhateeb said.

Though he loves the US and is open to staying here if he finds the right job, when Alkhateeb graduates with his computer science degree, he’s not quite sure where he will end up. What he does know, however, is that he wants to contribute the knowledge he gains to his country.