Field Note: Daily Life

The following is a transcript (meaning word for word record) of an interview I had with Raghad. She’s a very bright engineering student at Queen Mary, and she sheds light on what it’s like to live in London as a female Muslim Saudi.

What is your full name?

I’m Raghad Adnan Alturkistani, or in Arabic: رغد عدنان التركستاني

Where do you live? What is your house like?

I currently live in East Acton, London, United Kingdom. I live in a fair sized (in UK standards) five-bedroom house that has a lovely backyard with beautiful flowers planted in it. I have got another house in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where I actually live. Of course, that house is much bigger compared to the one in London. I have got my own room and bathroom there, while I share my bedroom with my sister here and the bathroom with my three siblings. Instead of the flowery backyard, we have got a swimming pool where I can practice one of my favorite hobbies.

What is your family like?

I’ve got three siblings: two younger brothers and an older sister. We are so attached to each other, and that is the reason my family decided to move to London with me when I decided to come here and study.

My parents are well-educated and are both working parents, which is why they have invested really well in our education. We enjoy doing everything together as a family, especially traveling and going on holidays.

How do you get around?

I usually use the public transportation (Tube, buses) for everyday outings. For family outings, my father usually drives us places (until I get my driving license, which I am working on).

What types of clothing do you like to wear?

Since I wear hijab (a veil that covers my head and chest), my clothes have to fully cover me and be modest when I am around men. Therefore, I like wearing loose long shirts with trousers underneath, a floral/printed scarf to add a stylish touch and a matching hijab. I really enjoy matching my hijab and scarf to my clothes. However, in Saudi, we have lots of female-only gatherings, and my style changes from hijab clothes to any type of clothes that I wear under my Abaya ‘gown’, which I only wear during the journey from one place to another. I like wearing dresses and midi skirts to big gatherings, and skinny jeans with pretty shirts to my friends’ houses.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time, I like to go on bike rides with my brother, and explore the nearby parks as I love nature so much. I also enjoy reading books, writing, and listening to Arabic poetry.

What language(s) do you speak? How do you say “Hello” in your language?

I speak Arabic and English. In Arabic we say: Marhaba/ مرحبًا  which means ‘hello’. What we mainly use, however, is Assalamu ‘Alaykum ‘السلام عليكم’, which is the Islamic greeting that means “Peace be upon you”.

Do you have pets?

I used to have a really cute cat back home, but I could not get it to the UK with me, so now I have none.

Have you traveled? Where have you traveled to?

Yes, my family and I have travelled a lot. I have been to the United States, Canada, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, France, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt.

What do you do for work?

I currently work as a Student Organizer for the School of Engineering and Materials Science Peer Assisted Study Support program at my university. It is a student-based mentoring program that allows second and third year students to provide academic help to the first year students working towards the same degree. Although I study engineering, and I enjoy it so much, I like education and believe it is the key to making great change in the world. Therefore, I plan to go into the education sector after I graduate and use the skills I learned from engineering to revolutionize the education system in the world (or my country, Saudi Arabia) and find more engaging and fun ways to teach children in schools.

Is there anything else you would like to say to students in the United States?

Being a female Muslim Saudi, I have heard lots of false stereotypes about me, and this has taught me one very important thing: I never believe what the media says without investigating the issue by myself, and asking the people whom the news may be talking about! I try my best to get to know as many people as I can from all different backgrounds, so I never fall into the stereotypes trap.


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