Thursday, 20 December 2012

One Year In Saudi!

How time flies...

Assalamu alaikum, everyone!

I just realized that I’ve now been in Saudi Arabia for an entire year! Wow! I flew into Jeddah last year on December 17th, and can’t believe a year has already passed since I was reunited with DH (see two blog entries from when I first arrived here: and here: after over two years of a long-distance engagement, and started a new life here. The past year has been full of adjustments being newly married, in a new country, starting a new job, meeting new friends, etc, etc, but alhamdulillah (“praise God” in Arabic) it’s been an amazing experience and I definitely don’t regret moving here.

There were times—especially in the second six months in Jeddah—that were particularly challenging. Once the ‘newness’ of everything wore off and reality set in, I started to feel the frustration of not being able to drive, the stress of work, and anxiety about starting to repay my huge student loan (in Ontario, Canada, the government gives students a six month grace period after the completion of studies before they have to commence loan repayment...) All of these factors were often overwhelming.

Back to the future...
These days, I’ve been keeping so busy that I haven’t had time to think about “oh, I can’t drive” or “I wish” this or that. I love my job at an all-girls university, and have become more involved in extracurricular activities now that I’m used to teaching and the workload. I started a “Music Club” with a group of girls who love to sing, and we’ve had a blast putting on our first performance at a college event, “Kaleidoscope,” a couple weeks ago. In January, I’ll be working with the Drama Club to put on a performance of The Taming of the Shrew. I spent a whole weekend revising Shakespeare’s script to make it culturally appropriate (sorry, Will, no mention of alcohol [a lot of “ale” and “wine” are dunk in the play....] is permitted!) I can’t wait to start working with my lovely colleague, who I’ll call “M,” and casting the parts!

I’ve also been tutoring three nights a week, and though it’s a busy schedule, I really enjoy working with the grade twelve girl, and her younger sister who is in grade six. They’re both motivated and work hard, which is a refreshing change from some—though not all ;)—of my students in my full-time job. Just last week, one of the students in my writing class came and told me she got 60% on a quiz I’d posted online for the class to complete. I’d told them they could leave class once they finished the quiz, and gave them two chances to attempt the answers. (In our program a 65% is a pass). I suggested that she take advantage of her second chance to write the quiz and asked her if she was aware of her mark in the class (an F). “Yes, miss, I know I’m failing. I don’t want to be in school. It’s okay if I fail.” MAJOR *sigh* from my side. Doesn’t she realize that a good education is worth SO MUCH, and is something that many, many women in Saudi Arabia—and throughout the world, for that matter—don’t have the opportunity to receive?

While hearing this lack of motivation can be frustrating, I have to admit that I was duly warned. Without fail, in every interview I had for various teaching positions in Saudi Arabia, I was asked “how would you deal with students who have no motivation?” Yes, this is definitely an issue!

On the other hand, many of my students are exceptional and have the desire to learn, to work hard, and to take advantage of their classes. They are excited to perfect their English so they can excel in their majors (many will go on to study Business, Interior Design, Speech and Hearing Sciences, the Social Sciences, etc.). Saudi Arabia is a country with so much opportunity!
We know too well how terrible the economy has been—and continues to be—in the Western world. Here in Saudi Arabia, most people cannot comprehend that there aren’t ample job opportunities for someone with my level of education. Their jaws drop every time I tell stories of my friends with master’s degrees working at McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, and other places where we worked to earn an extra buck while we were in high school. I graduated two years ago with my master’s degree, and after being accepted into a PhD program (also in Canada), I declined full funding and offers of admission because the employment situation—even for very highly educated people—is so grim in Canada.

In Saudi Arabia, by contrast, my students can be assured that they will have jobs—and good ones at that! The government, mashallah, is taking extensive steps to ‘Saudize’ the job market. So my task is to encourage these young women to work hard and appreciate the assurance of appealing careers that they will love once they graduate with their bachelor’s degrees.

Where have I been?
Changing the subject a little, I’ve been on a little hiatus from my blog for a number of reasons. Lots of things have been going on since DH and I returned to Jeddah after the summer.

Visits to Makkah
DH and I are thankful that Jeddah is a short 45 minute drive from the Holy City of Makkah. We try to get away and have little weekend “staycations” (i.e. stay in a hotel somewhere relatively close to home) at least once a month so that we can get away from the rush of everyday life and stop, relax, and rejuvenate. It’s been really making being in Saudi Arabia a rewarding experience. Makkah, a bustling city surrounded by desert and mountains, is an absolutely breathtaking place, and hearing the adhan (call to prayer) in the haram (holiest area) is simply phenomenal. Subhanallah!
On the way to Makkah.

Some beautiful desert scenery.

Getting into the city; view of the Clock Tower in the distance.
The Clock Tower, Makkah, Saudi Arabia
DH and I especially appreciate our little monthly escapes because we’ve both been so busy with planning for something else: possible returns to graduate school!

A return to graduate school?
Since DH was studying for his GMAT for business school admission over the summer, I’ve also been toying with the idea of a return to graduate school myself. I mentioned that I was offered funding and admission for my PhD two years ago, but declined in order to move abroad and experience life and work in Saudi Arabia. I don’t regret this decision, but I really do miss academia and would love, love, love to go back and continue with my research. With a master’s degree, I’m qualified to teach at the university level here in Saudi Arabia, but in Canada, I can only teach at the college level with an MA. I am thinking that with a PhD, even if the university job market is impossible to penetrate, with a PhD in English I would at least be more competitive for college-level faculty positions.
Trinity College Dublin
That said, I spent the better part of the past three months working on external funding applications,  research proposals, contacting potential supervisors, and filling out a million and one annoying “fill in the field” forms on various university websites. Alhamdulillah I’m finished with my Canadian PhD school and funding applications... Now I’m thinking about applying in the UK, too.

On my two-week break in October, DH went to Mecca for Hajj (the pilgrimage that every Muslim who is physically and financially able to perform must complete once in his or her lifetime), and after finishing most of my PhD applications, a friend and I traveled to Dublin, Ireland for the second week of the break.

Naturally, after seeing the sights, I ended up on a university campus (it just happened—I didn’t plan it, I swear!!!) and was able to meet with a couple of potential supervisors at Trinity College Dublin. I love the idea of studying in the UK, especially since my field is early modern British drama. The archives, theatres and resources there cannot compare to what we have in Canada. I’d have to end up applying for travel grants to visit the UK anyways... Unfortunately, though, funding for postgraduate studies in the UK (and Europe in general?) is nothing compared to Canada where I can expect to be offered enough funding to cover my tuition, books, AND living expenses, and possibly even put some money aside. Since I met with a potential supervisor in Dublin, though, I think I’ll go through with my application there and see if I’m offered anything competitive.
The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
Dublin is truly beautiful, and since I was there toward the end of October, all the shops were setting up their Christmas displays and the cooler weather made me so nostalgic for home. This is my second Christmas away from my family, but it hasn’t been a bad thing so far. In Saudi Arabia, Christmas is just any other day, so it makes me less inclined to sit around feeling like I’m missing out.

A visit home!
Between semesters in January, though, I have a week off. I’m excited that my mom bought me a ticket to fly home for that week so I can visit family! I especially miss my little sister (well, at 16, she’s not so little anymore!) and can’t wait to hang out and enjoy some nice chilly Toronto weather! (I hope I can handle it after Jeddah`s consistent heat!!!)

See you soon...
Thanks for stopping by and reading! It’s always nice to keep in touch with friends and family, and to have visitors from all over the world come to Pink Jeddah Sunset and say hello!

Until next time, Asalamu alaikum!


  1. Hi , your blog is very interesting . Pardon me for personal question , but do you have kids ???

  2. Thanks for reading my blog. No kids yet, but inshallah! ;)

  3. Hi Julie - I had plans to attend the production of "Kaleidoscope" but was unable to go at the last minute due to transportation issues - what else is new? I hope it was a success. I'm sure it was lots of fun. I miss being in plays and musicals. Hope you have a great visit with your family.

  4. Hi Susie--Yes!! The production was a great success. We had lots of fun and it was a good turn out. Hopefully you'll be able to make it to one of our second semester events. :) I totally know what it's like with transportation *sighhh*
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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