x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Forum helps students to settle in US

Major UAE companies search for talent in event organised by students and ministry.

WASHINGTON // Adjusting to life in the US did not come easily to the Emirati student Saood Al Noori.

Mr Al Noori, 23, can recall a woman screaming at him after he tried to help carry her bags off a bus, soon after he arrived.

"She thought I was going to steal them," said the third-year international relations student at American University. "It never occurred to me.

"[Life in the US] was completely different from what I expected."

A two-day forum in Washington DC at the weekend, called Today's Students, Tomorrow's Leaders, aimed to take some of the sting out of adjusting to the American way of life.

Emirati students from all over the US were brought together with representatives from three UAE ministries and major companies, and officials from the US government.

The conference was jointly organised by the UAE Embassy and students, and aimed to give practical help on common problems, from visa renewals to driving licence technicalities.

But the major drawcard was a jobs fair, which included some of the UAE's biggest companies.

Welcoming the more than 900 students at the Omni Shoreham Hotel was Omar Al Shamsi, the deputy chief of mission at the UAE Embassy, who told them they were "the real wealth and foundation" of the country.

Officials from the US state department and department of homeland security explained what students ought to know to avoid bureaucratic problems while studying in the US.

"Study hard and pass your classes," said Sharon Snyder of homeland security, explaining that students who failed could lose their visa.

Jim Girardi, also of homeland security, said: "Spell your name the same, whether applying for a visa or a driving licence."

Mr Girardi said it was hard to overstate how much of a headache this would save.

Eighteen Emirati companies set up booths and gave short presentations on Friday about job opportunities and requirements within their organisations.

Those searching for new talent included the Emirates Nuclear Energy Company, Etihad Airways and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It was for the ministry that Ahmed Al Shamsi, 21, a second-year political science student at Penn State University, had prepared his resume.

Mr Al Shamsi was also one of the main organisers of the weekend events, which he described as being "for the students, by the students".

The master of ceremonies was Mariam Arif, 20, a second-year student at American University.

To Ms Arif, the conference was not just an opportunity to explore career prospects, but a chance to exchange experiences with other Emirati students.

"Since I came, I haven't really had a chance to meet other Emirati students," she said. "Here I do. The conference is huge."

The forum was funded by the embassy with help from the ministries of foreign affairs and higher education, and was open to all of the estimated 1,600 Emirati students in the US.

Embassy officials said they hoped to turn the conference into an annual event.

Mr Al Noori was at the first Emirati students' forum two years ago and said that, although he was here for the jobs fair this time, the orientation section had been very helpful.

So well has he adjusted to his new life that: "My ambition is to one day become my country's ambassador to the US."