Kelsey Chapman ’15, an economics major and Middle East and Islamic Studies minor, was awarded the Saudi Arabia Exchange fellowship.
“I realized I knew nothing about a region that is so strategically important to the United States and wanted to be informed,” Chapman said.
The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR) sponsors the Saudi Arabia Exchange fellowship for Model Arab League alumni in collaboration with the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission to the U.S. and the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Higher Education.
Ten students from across the country are selected for the fellowship, which lasts for a year. During the fall of 2012, Chapman participated in Gettysburg College’s Model Arab League team representing the country Djibouti, resulting in Professor Evrard nominating her for the fellowship.
The fellowship incorporates public outreach as well as a study visit to Saudi Arabia. While in Saudi Arabia, there were scheduled meetings and events to take full advantage of the group’s short study visit.
Chapman visited several major cities, including Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam, universities, historical sites, museums, NGOs, the U.S. embassy, and business and cultural centers.
“My favorite experience from the trip was speaking one on one with Saudi students at King Saud University’s female campus. We spoke about American misconceptions of Saudi women versus how Saudi women view themselves,” Chapman said.
“They were incredibly optimistic about the future of women in Saudi society and about their future job prospects and academic endeavors,” Chapman said.
Chapman is currently studying abroad in Israel at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, but is in the process of planning visits to schools across the United States to talk with students about her experience.
Chapman plans on holding a few discussion events about Saudi Arabia at Gettysburg College in the fall of 2014 and is hoping to invite an expert on Saudi Arabia to hold a lecture about the country.
Read Chapman’s blog about her experiences in Saudi Arabia.