Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-9-2019


Although there are a significant number of Saudi females pursuing graduate degrees in Saudi Arabia and abroad, few studies have examined their educational experiences. This qualitative multi-case study examines the educational experiences of ten Saudi females who graduated with a master’s degree in an English language related field in two international contexts: American universities and Saudi universities. By conducting qualitative semi-structured interviews and document analysis, this study explored the challenges these two groups faced and the strategies they used to succeed in higher education institutions in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. This study discusses the roles that culture, religion, gender, and the English language play in these Saudi women’s academic experiences. In addition, this research sheds light on how these two groups’ educational experiences in two dissimilar international contexts influenced their views, values, and concepts of education and their personal identities as Saudi women. v

In each case, Saudi female participants faced different challenges and opportunities. The five Saudi female participants in the first case, those who graduated from American universities, were supported academically more than culturally, socially, and religiously. In contrast, the five Saudi female participants in the second case, those who graduated from Saudi universities, were supported culturally, socially, and religiously more than academically. To overcome their challenges, in both cases the participants were resilient. In addition, the Saudi female students who graduated from American universities experienced the racial/ethnic diversity and gender integration of U.S. classrooms and society and developed intercultural competence. In both cases, pursuing a graduate degree (and facing different challenges along the way) was a transformational journey that helped all the participants grow personally and academically. Based on this study’s findings, recommendations are presented for empowering Saudi female graduate students and enhancing their academic success in higher education both in Saudi Arabia and in the United States.


English Language, Saudi women, Educational experiences, Graduate programs, Saudi universities, American universities, Challenges, Strategies of success, Postcolonial feminism, Gender segregation

Document Type




Degree Name

Educational Linguistics

Level of Degree


Department Name

Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Lois Meyer

Second Committee Member

Ziarat Hossain

Third Committee Member

Bee Chamcharatsri

Fourth Committee Member

Feroza Jussawalla