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 efforts for promotion of human rights lauded

Updated 10 December 2019

Saudi efforts for promotion of human rights lauded

  • Saudi Arabia has spent more than $86 billion in over 81 countries between 1996 and 2018

RIYADH: Dr. Awwad Al-Awwad, president of the Kingdom’s Human Rights Commission, said on Tuesday Saudi Arabia is keen to play a constructive role to maintain international peace and security, prevent conflicts and promote a culture of tolerance.
He said this during a meeting with Marielle de Sarnez, who is a member of the French National Assembly, in Riyadh.
They reviewed Saudi efforts in supporting human rights and the ongoing reforms in the Kingdom with a particular reference to the protection of human rights.
The French politician praised the developments taking place in the Kingdom in all sectors particularly human rights and women’s empowerment.

Saudi assistance
On the occasion of Human Rights Day, which is observed globally on Dec. 10, Al-Awwad said: “(Protection of) human rights is an issue of great international concern especially in the light of the rise in wars, intolerance, terrorism, hatred and racism.”
Highlighting the Kingdom’s role in humanitarian causes, the rights chief said that Saudi Arabia has spent more than $86 billion in over 81 countries between 1996 and 2018.
Commenting on the Kingdom’s keenness to preserve global and regional peace, he cited the Riyadh agreement between the legitimate Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council as an example.
He reiterated the Kingdom’s historical stance on the Palestinian issue.

Symposium
The Human Rights Commission organized on Tuesday a symposium titled “Human Rights, A Vision for the Future” in Riyadh.
Professionals in the field of human rights from inside and outside the Kingdom participated in this symposium, which was attended by a number of diplomats.
The symposium highlighted the Kingdom’s role in protecting and promoting human rights in accordance with its national and international commitments in this field. It also shed light on the Kingdom’s cooperation with various human rights organizations and reviewed the importance it attaches to the independence of the judiciary, the rule of law, safeguarding the rights of subjects of law, and respecting the course of justice.
The symposium discussed the most prominent developments in human rights during the reign of King Salman, safeguarding the privacy and rights of children in light of the digital age, and providing protection to the elderly as well as the challenges facing providing them with a suitable environment.
Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al-Khayyal, vice president of the Human Rights Commission, emphasized in a speech he delivered on behalf of the commission’s president, Dr. Al-Awwad, that Saudi Arabia, led by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has made strides in the field of human rights.
“Saudi Arabia works continuously to achieve sustainable development through Vision 2030, in which the youth actively participate and play a major role in positive social change to contribute to more development achievements,” he said.
UN Resident Coordinator Nathalie Fustier stressed in her speech that the Kingdom has made many achievements in the field of human rights and that these efforts deserve to be saluted.
She added that the youth account for 25 percent of the Kingdom’s population and are the heart of society as they create the future of the next generations.
Fustier pointed out that at a global level, all development goals stipulate the protection of rights, including the rights of young people as they deserve many advantages and must be provided with the maximum benefits and more than the well-being and rights they have.