APSU's first Saudi master's student hopes to spread what she's learned in home country
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APSU's first Saudi master's student hopes to spread what she's learned in home country

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Hanan Alghamdi’s face brightened with a smile when she learned she was Austin Peay State University’s first-ever master’s degree recipient from Saudi Arabia. 

“I feel proud of what I am,” said the Master of Arts in Teaching recipient.

“I started from zero and now I see myself as …” she said before breaking off, adding later as her smile returned, “I did it. I did it.”

Alghamdi moved to Atlanta and Mercer University’s English Language Institute in 2014 on a graduate scholarship from Saudi Arabia’s king to follow up on the geography bachelor’s she earned in her home country.

She wanted to become fluent in English then earn a graduate degree in geography, “but when I saw the education here and the system and how the kids study in the schools, I changed my mind.”

She applied, and was accepted, at multiple colleges throughout the South.

“I found the MAT program at Austin Peay was the best one for me because I came here with no knowledge or background about teaching or learning,” Alghamdi said. “It focuses on the most important points in teaching and learning, starting from the what to know what the teaching and learning art and creating the environments for the kids. And going on to the specific points, like discussing the problems, creating and finding the solutions to these problems.”

She started at APSU in 2016, focusing on elementary education at Martha Dickerson Eriksson College of Education. The program challenged her in the beginning because she lacked a teaching background and teaching is different in Saudi Arabia.

“Even the topics and problems or even the studies and theories are different in the Middle East from here,” Alghamdi said.

She prevailed over those challenges.

Dr. Barbara Peterson, graduate coordinator for the program, taught Alghamdi in two classes.

“I’d say Hanan was one of the best students to go through the program,” Peterson said. “She’s tackled tough assignments and has done it with dignity and grace and beauty.

“Not only was she able to adequately do the work, she excelled in the work.”

Alghamdi’s immediate plans are to return to Saudi Arabia, hoping to apply what she’s learned to elementary education “to fill the gaps in education” there. She also wants to earn a doctorate in elementary education, in Saudi Arabia or anywhere in the world.

“I worked hard, even after the classes, to see or to discuss the common problems or common topics in education in the U.S.,” Alghamdi said about her work at APSU. “This has given me a new path.”

For more information about the Master of Arts in Teaching program at APSU, visit www.apsu.edu/grad-studies/teaching.php.