Odette simaan is intelligent, attractive, ambitious and 19. The youngest of four daughters and a son born to Simaan Simaan in the olive grove district of Afideek El-Koura in the mountains of colorful north Lebanon, she personifies a new generation of Arabs eager for change and opportunity, eager for higher education, eager to serve. Miss Simaan is one of five young Arab women selected for Arabian American Oil Company scholarships by the American University of Beirut School of Nursing in Lebanon's capital city.
A striking brunette with finely formed features and sparkling dark eyes, Miss Simaan seemed destined for a nursing career since her childhood. "In our village in the mountains, father taught us first aid," she recalls. "I think he instilled in all of us a feeling of wanting to serve. A close friend of mine became a nurse. As I look back, I always wanted to be a nurse, too, and so I like my professional studies here in Beirut very much."
Miss Simaan, an above average student whose grades range from the 80's into the 90's, already looks well beyond her graduation from nursing school in 1963. Like her brother, Jabbour, 23, who received his bachelor of science degree in surgery this year from the College of Medical Evangelists in Loma Linda, California, she expects to undertake further studies in the United States. A bachelor's degree in nursing is her next goal. With increased experience and nursing knowledge, Miss Simaan hopes to be able to contribute to the betterment of patient care and health conditions in the Middle East. She hopes to be able to teach.
"I had my elementary school work at home in the village of Kaftoun from my sisters," Odette says, "but I graduated from Bishmezeen High School and then took courses at the Middle East College and Nader's College in north Lebanon. Then I taught secondary and elementary school—Arabic, general sciences, English and mathematics. I enjoy teaching."
Miss Simaan finds her student life at A.U.B. strenuous but exciting. She lives with some 60 fellow nursing students in Dale Home on the heavily shrubbed campus, overlooking the ever-changing spectrum of the blue Mediterranean. Her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. class day, which alternates academic studies of biological and social sciences and nursing theory with patient care and study in the hospital wards, permits few leisure moments. But as a second-year student, she enjoys many privileges: her evenings are often free for music, books and occasional school parties. Bom into a family of musicians, Odette plays the accordion as a hobby. "I like to play Village' music and enjoy listening to Beethoven and Bach." On weekends she often visits her married sisters or her father.
Miss Simaan is typical, too, of hundreds of other Arabs now engaged in advanced study in the United States and the Middle East. The Aramco scholarship program, aimed principally at helping Saudi Arabia achieve new levels of education, has been greatly expanded. In addition to the five A.U.B. nursing scholarships awarded to Miss Simaan and the other Arab women, the Aramco program now includes 22 newly established scholarships. These study awards for Saudi Arab students are distributed among the following Middle Eastern institutions: American University at Cairo and Alexandria University in the United Arab Republic, the American University of Beirut and the Beirut College for Women in Lebanon. Principal areas of study are agriculture, business administration, engineering, medicine, science and teacher-training.
Also sponsored by the company is a one-year graduate fellowship at Harvard University School of Public Health and two graduate scholarships in Near Eastern Studies at the University of Michigan. In addition, Aramco supports an Arab Refugee Scholarship Program, administered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, under which 36 qualified refugee students are attending schools in the U.A.R., Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
By the fall of 1963, the number of Aramco university-level scholarships open to Saudi Arabs will have increased to about 60—the majority established in Middle Eastern institutions and some, in upper divisions or at graduate level, in the United States. All provide for tuition, living expenses, travel and incidental expenses.
All young people who win the awards, like Odette Simaan, will emerge better qualified to assist the Middle East to surpass even its glorious past.