Omani student numbers grow

Story, aggregated content and video by Cahner Olson, NewsNetNebraska.

Omani Student Numbers Grow in Nebraska

Since 2012, the number of Omani students at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln has grown from 14 to 192 students, an increase of 1,271% over the last six years.

Every year, the Oman Ministry of Higher Education awards a number of full-ride college scholarships to Omani high school seniors wishing to study in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

The ministry sends students to 14 countries in total spanning Africa, Asia, Middle East, Europe and North America, according to the Ministry of Higher Education’s website.

“I believe that Nebraska has been a popular place for the Ministry of Higher Education to send their students because UNL provides affordability without having to sacrifice academic quality,” says Erika Hepburn, Global Programs Coordinator at UNL.

When students are in their final year of high school in Oman they can apply for the scholarship, ranking their top ten universities they want to attend and majors they want to study. Around 1,000 students receive the scholarship each year, and although the ministry does their best to match each student with their top university and major, the student’s preferences are not guaranteed, according to Hepburn.

The first group of five Omani students arrived in Nebraska in December 2012.

“The day I found out I got the scholarship, it was around midnight so everyone was asleep, but I started yelling “Mom I got a scholarship!” and was like jumping on her bed,” says Rajwa Alrawahi, one of the first Omani students to come to UNL on the scholarship in 2012.

When the ministry told Alrawahi that she was going to Nebraska, she had never heard of the state before. She received her first-choice major, finance, but her top-rated university was in the United Kingdom.
In order for an Omani student to change their major, they must obtain special permission from the Omani Ministry of Higher Education. Scholarships are awarded partly based on what the student wants to study, and Oman has certain industries they want to invest in.

Adjusting to Nebraska Life

As more Omani students were sent to Nebraska, UNL began to develop better relations with the Omani government, and better procedures to help Omani students adjust to life at UNL.

UNL New Student Enrollment now picks the students up from the airport on arrival and conducts orientation during winter break in December. Selleck Dining Hall has also incorporated a few Halal meals into their weekly menu. Halal is meat that adheres to the Islamic way of slaughtering the animal.

“There are challenges for some of these students. Some of them we think are a normal part of the experience and cultural adjustment, but then some of these challenges do require a response,” says Hepburn. “We are here to listen and help when those needs arise.”

Hepburn travels annually to Oman to attend EduTraC, a recruitment event attended by universities all over the world. As more Omani students have begun coming to Nebraska, Hepburn, along with representatives from the University of Nebraska- Omaha and the University of Nebraska- Kearney, have also begun holding a reception for incoming students and their parents to meet their university representatives and ask questions.

The first cohort of Omani students who arrived in 2012 have recently graduated and returned to Oman. Hepburn’s trip to Oman this year will be the first time that UNL alumni will attend the reception and talk with students who will be arriving in Nebraska this December.

American students studying in Oman

Although the number of Omani students coming to Nebraska is growing, the number of American students studying in Oman has stayed steadily lower.

Between 2015-2017, 20 UNL students have participated in short-term study abroad trips to Oman. The most recent trip, UNL Faculty-Led: Oman & UAE: Perspectives in Development, which was conducted over spring break 2017, accounted for 13 of those 20 students. The program will run again in spring 2018 and currently has 20 students who have applied.

The Education Abroad Office is also developing a computer science program in Oman, which is slated to run in summer 2018.

“The goal is to partner with an Omani university so that our students can interact with Omani students who are also studying computer science,” says Rebecca Baskerville, Director of Education Abroad at UNL. “The hope is to get an underrepresented discipline, computer science, into an underrepresented region of the world, Oman.”

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