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Areej Albawardi – University of Reading

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  • Areej Albawardi

    PhD research in digital literacy practices of Saudi female university students

Areej Albawardi

Digital literacy practices and inspirational supervisors

Areej is a lecturer in the English Department at Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University in Saudi Arabia. She completed her PhD in Applied Linguistics at Reading in 2018.

Areej's PhD research considered the digital literacy practices of Saudi female university students. She did this by examining the kinds of languages and technological tools that are used by the students in their digital communications on two specific applications, WhatsApp and Snapchat.

"My role as a teacher and as a social media user puts me in to contact with different types of languages, discourses and social worlds - this has inspired my research topic."

Areej's PhD was funded through a scholarship granted by her employer and the Ministry of Higher Education in Saudi Arabia.

Areej says she chose the University of Reading because of its reputation as one of the leading universities in the UK and its strong position among universities worldwide.

Areej also says she was inspired by Professor Claire Furneaux and Professor Rodney Jones from the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics:

"Their support went beyond the limits of my PhD thesis; their supervision meetings improved my writing and presentation skills and at the same time set a good example of a supervisor, an advisor, an academic and a leader."

The various networks in the department helped Areej to maintain various academic and social ties.

"Getting involved in all these communities opened my eyes to different worlds. There is the weekly circle that gathers PhD students and members of the department to meet linguists from different parts of the world. This is complemented by the Graduate School which regularly brings PhD researchers from different disciplines under one roof."

In terms of challenges, Areej found that gathering her data was one of her biggest challenges because the private nature of it required significant ethical consideration.

"The greatest achievement during my study is learning how to be an academic. This involves putting the pieces of my thesis together, and writing and talking about it both as a whole and as a collection of different parts.

Areej says that her PhD has prepared her for her future academic life: researching, presenting, mentoring and leading.

"In 5 years' time I would like to be in a position where I achieve a good balance between teaching, research and leadership."

When looking back over her time as a PhD student Areej gives some advice.

"Make the most of it! Don't regret the time spent attending training courses, you will need them!"

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