Saudi Arabians experience life in Marshalltown

A group of 10 future engineers have come a long way to learn about American business and get immersed in the English language.

The men in their early 20s from Saudi Arabia are in the middle of a two-month stay in Marshalltown. They rotate weeks spent at Fisher Controls/Emerson and at the Iowa Valley Education and Training Center.

“I’m happy to come here,” said Ali Fagihi, one of the visitors. “There are nice people.”

They are learning about control valves at Fisher and are learning the English language in classes at the ETC. Some arrived knowing some English.

Jennifer Wilson, director of the ETC, said hosting the group has been a great opportunity and has provided two-way learning. Wilson said many of these students would like to work for an American company.

Ashley Jennings, who has experience with international students, has been the contracted teacher at the ETC.

“They are very intelligent, and they are very eager to learn,” Jennings said.

The group is staying at a local hotel while in Marshalltown. The visitors joked that Marshalltown is a “one-road” town as they are accustomed to bigger cities. They were able to take a trip to Chicago and were impressed with the Willis Tower.

A recent dinner between the international guests and the Iowa Valley staff offered up some bonding moments for the two groups.

“As I was showing the gentleman (pictures of) my dogs they were showing me their camels,” Wilson said. “So we had great conversation.”

Camels are apparently more commonplace in Saudi Arabia than many in the United States may realize.

“My uncle has 90 camels,” said visitor Abdullah Maghfuri.

He said they use camels for milk, food and transportation.

“It’s an investment,” Maghfuri said.

The group arrived in Marshalltown June 5 and will depart Aug. 2.