PULLMAN, Wash. — The dormitories of this college town are 2,200 miles from the East Coast, but Arab students are feeling the reverberations of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Some 47 students from the United Arab Emirates have dropped out of Washington State University, called back home by parents fearful of war and anti-Arab sentiments in the United States.
Other Arab students are leaving colleges across the country, although the numbers do not appear to be large.
“There are some students who feel anxiety,” said Shafeeq Ghabra, spokesman for the embassy of Kuwait in Washington, D.C. “Their parents back home in Kuwait are more anxious than they are. Some would like to be together with their children.”
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are providing financial and other assistance to any students from their countries who want to return home.
About 570,000 foreign students are in the United States, about 40,000 of them from Arab countries, according to the American Council on Education.
While it’s unclear how many are leaving, one of the biggest exoduses appears to be from Washington State, a land-grant institution with 18,000 students in the Palouse wheat country in the southeast corner of the state.
About 47 students from the UAE, mostly junior college transfers who arrived on the Pullman campus a few weeks ago for the start of school, are leaving the country, officials said.
“For the most part it’s because their parents want them back,” said Ranna Daud, 20, head of the Muslim Student Association at WSU.
Daud, an Arab-American raised in Pullman, said there has been no overt discrimination against the students, although some have received verbal harassment.
Efforts to contact some of the departing students were not successful.
The vast majority of Arab students seem to be staying.
At Montana State University in Bozeman, all the Arab students appear to be staying, said Abdullah Bahazig, head of the university’s Muslim Student Association.
“I think Bozeman is one of the safest places in the U.S. for an international student,” Bahazig said.
The worst terrorist attack on American soil took place two weeks ago, when hijacked jetliners were flown into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A fourth plane crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside after doomed passengers apparently struggled with the hijackers. More than 6,000 people are dead or missing.
The Saudi Arabian government is providing free airfare to students who wish to go home. Those who choose to do so will not lose their scholarships.
Kuwait has more than 3,000 students in the United States, Ghabra said.
“We have encouraged students to stay,” he said.
Those who are fearful are getting Kuwaiti government assistance to come home, but are being asked to return to the United States in three months, Ghabra said.
“I am assuming we’ll end up with several hundred doing that,” Ghabra said. “Then we ask them to come back and be there for spring semester.”
Ghabra has a daughter who is a junior at American University in Washington, D.C.
“There were some difficult times for her in the first days, but she is over it,” he said. “My daughter is staying on and her friends are staying on.”
However, more than 30 Arab students have left American University.
There were scattered reports of Arab students leaving other colleges.
—About two dozen Arab students have left both the University of Missouri and the University of Colorado at Denver.
— Up to 30 students from Arab countries have left California State University, Long Beach.
—Four Middle Eastern students have left the University of Arizona.
—At Boston University, five Arab students have left.
—Three students from the United Arab Emirates have withdrawn from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.