Saffanah Almajnouni: A young ambitious Saudi student living her dream in Japan

Saffanah Almajnouni. (Supplied)
Updated 01 July 2019

Saffanah Almajnouni: A young ambitious Saudi student living her dream in Japan

  • Saffanah Almajnouni: I consider Saudi students in Japan survivors, because we managed to adapt to the culture and lifestyle regardless of the huge difference between the two countries

RIYADH: Saffanah Almajnouni is a 24-year-old architecture student, currently enrolled at Tokai University in Japan, where she has lived for over five years.
During her first year in the country, she entered a speech competition, pitting Japanese contestants delivering a speech in Arabic against Saudi Arabian contestants delivering a speech in Japanese.
It was a landmark event for Almajnouni, who came second in the competition, organized by the Saudi Cultural Mission in Japan in cooperation with the University of Osaka and hosted by the Osaka International Center for Cultural Exchange. Almajnouni had entered a similar competition at the Japanese Embassy in Riyadh in 2012.
“My speech was about how much I love Japan, the culture, heritage and language,” she explained to Arab News. “At that time, I was confident that I would win the contest, so I was waiting to hear my name when they announced the winners but, unfortunately, I lost. I was really disappointed, because I really wanted to prove to my parents how much I wanted to go to Japan and study there.”
It was a bitter loss. But, she added, “If I didn’t lose in 2012, I wouldn’t have stood up again to win in 2014.”
Almajnouni’s winning speech that year was about how she lost in the 2012 competition and how she felt back then. “The 2012 failure made me a winner in 2014,” she reiterated. Almajnouni’s accomplishment is even more impressive when you learn that she taught herself to speak Japanese, which she now considers her second language.
“I started to learn Japanese in 2009. My sister and I used to practice the language together,” she said. “It was difficult for me to acquire the language, but because I was passionate about it I studied every morning.”

HIGHLIGHT

Saffanah Almajnouni says her father encouraged her to apply for the speech competition.

Almajnouni first visited Japan in 2011 on a 10-day vacation. “I immediately felt that I belonged there and I felt that I had to come back to Japan not as a tourist but as a resident. I had to live there and study there,” she said.

She said her father was supportive of that dream: “He was investing in our education, so he was one of the first to support me to study in Japan. In fact, he encouraged me to apply for the speech competition.”
She clarified why she chose to study architecture in Japan: “Japan’s population is high, (so people) live in small houses and apartments. But even though their houses are small, they are creative when it comes to using space. I want to introduce the concept of smart homes to Saudi Arabia when using small spaces.”
As much as she has enjoyed her time in Japan, Almajnouni explained that it hasn’t always been easy, and that during her first year or so she suffered from “culture shock.”
“It was strange, because I love Japanese culture, the cuisine, the lifestyle, even the TV shows. In fact, all of my friends in Saudi Arabia were Japanese or foreigners, so to feel homesick was hard for me,” she said. “I had to think these things through, because there is no turning back —  I fought for this and life is not easy. So I had to get more involved with the culture.”
She has certainly kept herself busy. “I decided to learn new things every once in a while, like production and montage and taking extra courses in translation,” she explained. “My goal is to come back to Saudi Arabia with several degrees.
“I consider Saudi students in Japan survivors, because we managed to adapt to the culture and lifestyle regardless of the huge difference between the two countries,” she continued. “It is a big challenge — especially with the language barrier. But we hope our parents are proud of us and that we are the best ambassadors for our home country.”


Saudi Health Minister: No coronavirus cases in the Kingdom

Updated 27 min 38 sec ago

Saudi Health Minister: No coronavirus cases in the Kingdom

  • The Kingdom took measures to limit the spread of the virus

DUBAI: The Saudi Minister of Health, Tawfiq Al-Rabiah confirmed that several precautionary measures had been implemented to address the new coronavirus.

The ministry has increased monitoring and control procedures for flights coming directly from China.

Passengers coming from China through indirect flights are being contained and having their vitals inspected in coordination with the Civil Aviation Authority.

“No cases of infection with the new coronavirus have been recorded in the Kingdom yet,” he added, explaining that coronavirus was an airborne virus transmitted by coughing.

The National Center for Disease Prevention and Control (NCDC) has prepared a health guide to deal with suspected cases. The NCDC provided laboratory tests, set up the mechanism for collecting and transferring sample to NCDC’s national laboratory and issued advice to passengers going to areas where the disease has appeared.

The ministry’s Command and Control Center took precautionary measures as soon as the virus was discovered in China, the minister said.

The ministry has also implemented the international health regulations and coordinated with the relevant authorities to deal with this situation and address it.

The precautionary measures included closely monitoring the epidemiological situation with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other available sources and coordinating with the Civil Aviation Authority in assessing the direct and indirect traffic from and to China in order to provide information for people planning to visit affected areas, monitor those arriving from them, implement the health assessment at entry points and follow up on them to ensure their safety,” Al-Rabiah pointed out.

The Command and Control center had previously explained that the common symptoms of infection are acute respiratory ones such as fever, coughing, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. In more severe cases, it can cause pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome.