Master's, Ph.D. graduate takes international experience home to Middle East

June 7, 2012

Farooq AlTameemy was unprepared when he stepped off the plane into a Midwestern winter in 2003.

The Indiana State University graduate, who completed his doctorate degree in May 2010, was accustomed to the spring-like temperatures of Taiz, a mountainous city in Yemen in the southern Arabian Peninsula.

"Although I read about how bad weather can get in the U.S. prior to my trip, it was way worse than I had expected," AlTameemy said. "The fun white scene everywhere you looked lasted a few days before I started to get very annoyed by it."

Despite the weather disturbance, AlTameemy settled into his pursuit of a master's degree in linguistics and TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language), which he received in 2004. He then earned a doctorate of curriculum, instruction and media technology with focus on language education. He came to the United States as a Fulbright Scholar, an international educational exchange program. After submitting his application, AlTameemy received acceptances from three schools.

"After comparing the three universities, I decided to come to ISU," he said.

Beyond managing the city bus schedule, navigating through Terre Haute upon his arrival became a challenge for AlTameemy, who lived in the family housing complex just blocks from the ISU campus. Trying to find his way in the unfamiliar, dark, empty streets proved nerve-wracking.

"[It was] something I never experienced before, as the city where I came from was about two million people at the time and would have people walking around even late at night," he said.

AlTameemy described three different networks of support that he encountered while at ISU, the first being the faculty and staff in his program.

"There were my professors, who would spare no effort to help and offer consultation whenever needed. That was an experience that I never had before my ISU experience," he said. "I had great professors who were able to create a friendly environment in which students, especially foreign students, felt comfortable and thus able to achieve in their studies."

He also referenced the support of the Office of International Programs and Services at Indiana State and the Muslim Students Association, in which he actively participated and felt "at home."

Now teaching English for the Saudi Interlink Language Center at Yamamah University in Saudi Arabia, AlTameemy said his experiences at ISU contributed to his success as a student and professional. While enrolled in classes, he also served as a student assistant in the languages, literature and linguistics department and as an adjunct faculty member in the elementary, early and special education department.

"Studying with students that came from various language backgrounds was great in helping me understand what language issues are there that can either prevent or promote learning of a language," he said. "My work as an assistant and adjunct faculty helped me a great deal enriching my experience in teaching in general, in addition to teaching in a different setting and class environment."

AlTameemy also worked as a community assistant with residential life, in which he learned to communicate with people of different cultures "not only comfortably, but positively and productively."

Life lessons learned at ISU have remained with AlTameemy after returning to the Middle East.

"I learned that collaborative teamwork yields better and more results. These reflect now on my team level tasks and projects," he said. "One other lesson is acceptance. At ISU I have dealt with and was in contact with students all over the world. Knowing about them and dealing with them taught me acceptance of others."

AlTameemy acknowledged his approval of the city as an excellent environment for international students.

"Terre Haute is a small city, yet there is still a lot to do to have fun," he said. "For international students, especially those who come with family and kids, Terre Haute is a family-friendly place."

Contact: Susan Kiger, chairperson, department of curriculum, instruction and media technology, Indiana State University at 812-237-2960 or susan.kiger@indstate.edu

Writer: Mallory Metheny, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University at 812-237-3773