A New Vision of America: A Conversation with Mashhour Alqahtani
SUSRIS | Pat Ryan | 8.1.12
Before his arrival in the United States, Mashhour Z. Alqahtani experienced higher education in a very different fashion. Having already earned a degree from Riyadh’s College of Telecom and Information, Mashhour sought a to earn a second degree. This time, however, he was to achieve it abroad in America under the fellowship of the King Abdullah Scholarship program. Leaving behind a family of four brothers and five sisters in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, Mashhour arrived in America in January 2008.
Mashhour’s vision of America had been provided by Hollywood, generating the Manhattan-esqe image that the country in its entirety was comprised of skyscrapers, busy traffic, and bustling streets. However, he was surprised to find the big screen’s stereotypes of America didn’t quite correspond to Cookeville, Tennessee, the small town home to Tennessee Technological University where Mashhour was to study Electrical Engineering.
His first experiences were what one might expect, stereotypes and misunderstanding of Saudis and their heritage. He overcame the ignorance attributed to lack of knowledge and understanding and sought, instead, to build bridges. Mashhour saw the opportunity to change the preconceived notions adopted by some Americans after the 9/11 tragedies. His passion to represent the true, peaceful nature of Saudis led him to take charge in the Saudi Students Club as the club’s president where he worked diligently to, not only proudly represent his country, but prove to the students and the people in his new community that they can live together as partners in peace. While it may have been difficult, initially, to disprove erroneous impressions of Saudi Arabian people, Mashhour notes in this exclusive interview with SUSRIS that his passionate pursuit of not only a second degree, but of peace between cultures, ultimately yielded results.