Claire Sale Headshot

I’m Claire Sale. On this blog, I share information about things I’m passionate about – including community building, communication, science and technology, and expat life.

I am a professional communicator and community builder focused on using science and technology for social benefit. I am a communicator by education, a community builder by profession, and a consensus-builder by disposition.

I have a passion for building strong online and offline communities with an aim to create real impact locally and globally. I value transparency and have experience in large-scale, international projects as well as small, local projects.

I live as an expat in Saudi Arabia where serve as a volunteer on many community-focused projects and particularly enjoy working on initiatives which use science or technology for social benefit.

I have previously worked in communication and community-building projects in the KAUST Core Labs, the KAUST President’s Office, and at Acadox, a KAUST-funded start-up.

Before living at KAUST, I spent several years as a community builder for NetSquared, an organization that is focused on the intersection of technology and social benefit. I was also the founder of Net2Camb, a local meetup group in Cambridge, England for people interested in connecting on using technology for social good. Before that, I worked in Washington, DC as a social media specialist at the National Headquarters of the American Red Cross. I have also been known to dabble in community-building and communication focused consulting.

Most of my professional projects have in common deep-seated community roots, but the part I’m most proud of is that for the most part they are now being run by new people that have put their own passion into the cause and multiplied the positive impact.

If you have a project that you’d like to collaborate on, please get in touch!

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  • Hi Indra, thanks for your kind words! That’s wonderful news – Kaust is a great place.

    I’d be happy to answer your questions, though I prefer to do it publicly if possible. I am sure lots of people have the same questions you do and hope that they can also learn the answers. Would it be possible to post your questions here and I’ll do my best to reply?


  • Indra Keliuotis

    Hi Claire,
    I guess my main question is what is the best way to get in at KAUST? There is a position in the Female Initiatives Department which focuses on the advancement of women at KAUST. I feel I would be a great fit for this position…I dont just want to send my application blindly without speaking to someone first.
    What about outside the KAUST campus? Do all women have to wear the abaya?

  • Julie Piper

    Me again, Claire. I saw recently that you were studying to become a doula. My visa is stamped “Not permitted to work” as I am sure yours is. We were told I would be able to work on the KAUST campus, by our relocation coordinator. I am a teacher and can’t stand the thought of not working. Can you tell me, if you know, how that would work with the resident visa. Does KSA have special rules for KAUST residents?

  • Hi Indra – Thanks for posting your questions here. That sounds great!

    Sadly, I had no idea we even have a female initiatives department, but am excited to hear that we do! That means though that I don’t have any insight into that department or how to get a job there. I’ve found though that the best way to “get in at kaust” (as you put it) is like any other place — to be an excellent fit for the job — which you clearly think you are! So, that’s a great first step :-)

    The rules on compound and off compound are pretty different. Off compound, yes you must wear an abaya. On compound though, things are a bit more relaxed. You can wear what you like as long as it’s fairly conservative – I don’t wear tank tops or shorts for instance.

    Hope this helps! Feel free to shoot more questions my way!

  • Yes, I think there are special rules for KAUST residents who wish to work on campus. My training to become a doula is outside this special consideration though – I will not be “working” here — just doing the doula thing for friends.

  • Indra Keliuotis

    thanks …I am a big runner (marathons) and I like to run in nature…I cant do treadmills. So I would like to run in shorts on campus…I cannot imagine doing anything else in the heat. I heard its quite an international community there….You mentioned compound. Do you live on a compaound separate from the University?

  • Hi Indra — There is no hard and fast rule on this. Some people do run in shorts. I prefer to wear 3/4 yoga capris when I work out, as they’ve got a bit more coverage and make me feel more comfortable… but I think you can judge what you think is most sensible once you get here.

    It is very, very international. I don’t know the stats on how many countries we have represented here, but what I can say is that it is quite common to be sitting at lunch with a group of people all from different countries. I tend to think it must be the most international small-town-in-the-middle-of-nowhere on the planet!

    Lastly let me clarify what I mean about compound and campus: The compound is everything behind the large security wall that encompasses the entire community. This includes homes, grade schools, recreation areas, the university campus, shopping area etc.

    The campus is just the academic area. This is one small part of the compound.

    Hope this helps!!!

  • Tana

    Dear Claire
    I am currently going through an interview process with KAUST. They seem keen to offer me a job there. I just wanted to find out how long it takes to get to SAUDI/KAUST from the interview, to being offered a job, applying for VISA and subsequently arriving in SAUDI. What are the potential bottlenecks/ delays and things that I can do to expedite the process of moving to SAUDI

  • Chebu

    Hello Claire,
    Could you tell me something about the current situation and feelings in Saudi Arabia and KAUST about Syria. I am due to fly to Jeddah with my two children in October but I am scared as hell right now. I am not sure I am making the right decision. I’d rather stay in Europe at the moment. However, my husband will fly to KAUST next week and our stuff was picked up last week. Please, how do people at KAUST feel? Are you safe?

    Thanks a lot,

  • Hi Chebu – Sorry for my delayed reply, this went to my spam folder for some reason.

    All is well! We feel very safe at KAUST and feel very removed from the problems in Egypt and Syria. All of it is terrible news of course, but does not affect us or our decisions on a day-to-day basis. We are nowhere near any of this!

    In fact, after the mass shooting in DC the other week, I was reminded how much safer I feel here than I do in any major city.

    Hope this helps!

  • Yes there are africans here! Many :-)

    And, yes, women are allowed to drive on the compound. And, the schools are within the walls of the compound, so you won’t have any trouble with trips to school, work, grocery store etc. Outside the compound, women are not allowed to drive.

  • Hi Tana — Sorry for my delayed reply, this went to my spam folder for some reason.

    This is a LONG process. For some, it can take as long as a year — it’s really not that uncommon.

    There is little you can do to speed up the process, other than to return your replies in a timely manner.

    Dealing with delays and bottlenecks now will get you used to the culture of saudi anyways :-)

    Good luck!

  • Tana

    Hie Claire
    I would like to find out about the cost of living in KAUST, i.e. how much can one budget for groceries for a family of 4, extra mural activities for kids, bills and travel. What other costs can one incur living in KAUST?

  • Adeem Zafar

    Hi Tana,

    I am a family of 4 (3.5 and 1.5 year olds) and groceries (plus baby items like diapers and wipes) is about $1,000. I put my 3.5 year old in swimming lessons which is about $65 (one time fee). A family with 2 children is eligible for a three bedroom detached house, which is $17,000 a year in rent. Travel costs are based on where you intend to fly to.

  • Hi Tana – I think this is a really hard question to answer. You can live on a shoestring or spend like a king – like anywhere else. I went ahead and asked one of our facebook groups your question and the replies I got are in this image.

    Hope this helps!

  • Assuie

    Hi, can you please let me know how i can arrange a domestic helper within KAUST.

  • It’s just a load of paperwork, interviews, more paperwork, and waiting. GASC – the KAUST Government Affairs team will help you with the process.

  • Assuie

    Hi thanks for getting back to me so promptly. Is the process that detailed for finding someone within Saudia, rather than arranging for someone to come from other country? Also can we start the process even we are not there just yet? Is there an email etc for appropriate person from KAUST who we can speak to arrange this before arrival. Thanks again for everything & btw your blog have really enriched our knowledge. Also another question are there professional swimming classes offered for children within KAUST? Thanks heaps

  • Hi Assuie,

    Thanks for your kind words! I’m glad the blog has been useful to you!

    There is a shortage of maids in this region at the moment but I’m sure there is a process for hiring someone who is already here. I don’t know what it is though. I also don’t know if you can start the process before you get here. I would talk to your relocation coordinator and ask them to put you in touch with someone in Government Affairs (GASC) to help answer these questions.

    There are swimming lessons here – for lots of different ability levels and ages. Our little one is currently in the baby and me class!

    Good luck with your move!

  • Tana

    Hie Claire
    Thanks for your useful information and advise. You are doing a good job. I would like to find out if there are afterschool clubs or afterschool care for kids. Since i will be employed full time i will only be able to pick up kids from school after 5. Or are there people in the campus who offer this service. My other question is how easy is it to get a domestic helper in campus and how much are they paid on average?

  • Hi Tana, did you see my other reply below about how long it takes?

    It’s fairly easy to hire a domestic helper – it’s just a long process with a bunch of paperwork. Finding the right person for your family is probably the trickiest part – depending on your particular needs and expectations.

    I don’t know what the average domestic helper is paid. I encourage you to check out the legal information on this subject about minimum pay and benefit requirements – which can usually be found on the embassy page of the nationality of the person you are hiring. (Not that you should pay the minimum, but that you get a sense of where the starting point is….)

    There are after school clubs for the kids. I don’t know anything about them but I’m sure your relocation advisor can tell you more.

    Good luck!

  • Subhashini Prem

    Hi Julie,
    My husband has been interviewed at KAUST about a month ago.
    How long does it take to get the offer ?

  • Julie

    My husband had an initial interview in January with a follow up at the end of May before getting an offer. After that it was another 3 months before we arrived at KAUST. It is a lengthy process. That being said, each department is different and the process is different depending on your country of origin.

  • Brian

    Dear claire

    I am already in saudi in dammam working for an oil and gas company . Two months ago my wife applied for a post at kaust and has been offered a family package. I was considering asking for trasfer from my company to jeddah. However as i was browsing through kaust job i got a relevant vacant post that i applied for and they are keen to offer me. It is again a mangerial post which qualifies to be a family package. We have two children 13 and 5 . Now my questions are: will i be offered same benefits of family package now that my wife benefits covered all what we needed Will i go through the same recruitment processs since i have all medical aid iqama etc .would you like to send me the salary grades structure at kaust and how best to negotiate with them
    Thank you

  • Hi Brian –

    Congrats! Kaust must really like you guys.

    I actually don’t know too much about this!

    It’s not very common to have both husband and wife get “primary positions” as you have. Usually one is the primary and the other has a “spouse job”. That said, this did happen quite a bit in the launch years and so I am sure there is an established process. Unfortunately though, I do not work at KAUST and am not really the right person to answer these questions. I suggest you speak with your relocation advisor about your options.

    I do have a friend in a similar situation who might be able to share some insights. I’ll email her and see if she’s willing to share her experience with you.

    Let us know when you get here – we know lots of people who also worked for a particular oil and gas company in Dammam.

  • Brian

    Thank you Claire let me know if he/she is willing to share the experience ,That will be great and helpful.

  • Hi Brian, here is the reply from my friend:

    “He should expect to go through the same recruiting process of application, screening, interview, and offer. The offer package will be different because of his wife’s offer. For example, and specific to his question, he will not be offered medical benefits because his wife elected family coverage. At the time of offer, he should be prepared to ask his questions about benefits. He should clarify if his iqama is sponsored by his wife or if he is being hired on his own work iqama. A work iqama only means he is hired as a regular employee not as a spousal hire.

    The negotiation process is the same at KAUST as with any business. Negotiate in good faith, ask for want you want and be willing to accept less if it’s acceptable. We do not have, nor would we provide access to the salaries assigned to grades.”

  • Brian

    Thanks Claire

    At least i have a bit of an insight as to what we should expect. Thanks a lot- i appreciate

  • Lesley

    Hi Claire. Thanks for dealing with all the questions. Please advise me if i can bring someone other than a family member to live with us in Kaust. My husband has a job there and we plan and moving there in 2-3mths time. The “non-family” member is my maid but has become more like family to myself and kids and has been with us for 10years. She lives permanently with us so i am really stressing what is going to happen. Do you k ow if she will be able to come with us or what options or suggestions do you have? Many thanks.

  • Hi Lesley, I don’t work at KAUST and really don’t know the answer to your question. I’m sure you’re not the first one to ask though! Definitely talk to your relocation advisor and see what they say. If you get a no answer, try to find out why and see if there is a way that you can make it happen.

  • Tana

    Dear Claire
    I have another question. I have done my medicals and police checks, I was just wondering how long KAUST would take to conduct the background checks. What is the maximum amount of time it takes to get the background checks?

  • Shreenath Krishnamurthy

    Hi Clarie
    I will be joining KAUST as a post doc fellow in a couple of months’ time. I am an Indian. I had recently submitted my PhD in Singapore. I would like to know more about life @ KAUST. About housing, campus facilities, recreational facilities and more. I had a great time at Singapore where I had lots friends which resulted in lots of trips and outings. I understand that KAUST will be lot different. Are there any particular restrictions ? Can my parents come and stay with me if they wish to ? Thanks….

  • Dr Adeel Riaz

    Wonderful website Claire. Well done. You are a text book expat spouse :) keep the good work going.

  • Thank you Dr. Adeel! You are too kind. I’ll keep trying my best.

  • Hi Shreenath, I really encourage you to read my blog posts at http://clairesale.com/category/saudi-arabia/ for a good understanding of what life is like here – including housing, facilities, etc. In particular you may be interested in:

    Compared to what I’m used to living in the US and UK, there are quite a few restrictions in Saudi, but many of them are relaxed here at KAUST.

    Your parents can come visit for a short stay (up to one month I think). But, only your parents or siblings can come. Friends will not be able to get visas to visit saudi unless they are coming for hajj or umrah.

    Let me know if you have any particular questions about the housing, facilities, or restrictions. I will do my best to answer!

  • I’m sorry but I really don’t know. I encourage you to contact your HR advisor about this.

  • Shreenath Krishnamurthy

    Thank you claire for your prompt reply. Yes I have a few questions. How much money is sufficient for me to bring along initially, before I am paid the salary ? And how expensive is the food and is it easy to get veggie food inside KAUST and how much is the rent for accomodation ?

  • Hi Shreenath – Let me answer your questions one-by-one:
    1. How much money? Think about how much money you would need for groceries for about 3 months and bring that much in cash. You should be able to get your bank account opened in a few weeks, but that extra cash will get you through the expenses during that initial period. This is probably more than you need, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?
    2. The food prices vary. Some local goods are very cheap – dates, bread, juices etc. But, imported goods can be very expensive. It’s important to check the prices when you’re buying. Sometimes fruit, veg, and specialty items can have very high prices.
    3. The rent for accommodation is based on your relationship to the university (student, faculty, founder, service provider, etc). I don’t know the rent for a postdoc fellow – you’ll need to ask your relocation advisor.

    Hope this helps!

  • Lucia Garay

    Hi Claire, I really enjoy your blog. We are moving from Spain to Jeddah soon and we would like to carry our dog with us. I know you used a UK company to help you with the shipping. Can you recommend me any company in Jeddah which can do the papework so the dog can go with us in a direct flight from Madrid?
    Thank you very much for your answer and will looking forward to hearing from you.

  • Lucia Garay

    Hi Claire, I really enjoy your blog. We are moving from Spain to Jeddah soon and we would like to carry our dog too. I know you hired a UK company to help you with the shipping. Can you recommend us some local company in Jeddah which can do all the papework for us so the dog can fly in the flight with us?
    Thank you very much for your advice and will looking forward to hearing from you.

  • ohood

    hello claire
    i do not know if you still answering the question the last post was year ago any way i will be glad if u helped me here
    i am a saudi girl from riyadh applying for master degree
    i am WONDERING about the singles APARTMENT, i would like to have single apartment with no ROOMMATE is this possible? can i ask specially for it ?

    and about travelling out of kaust is it true it should be with male partner bcz i HEard that

    please answer me if you can
    thank you so much

  • Hi Lucia –

    Thanks for your kind words and congrats on your move!

    Try Jeddah Vets — I heard they are back in business since I wrote my post. Here’s their website http://www.saudivets.com/transport1.htm

    Good luck and let me know if there is anything else I can do to help!

  • (see response below)

  • Hi ohood – Actually my last post was only a few weeks ago and this website is still very active.

    I really don’t know about the housing requirements at KAUST for students. I encourage you to talk to your relocation advisor about this.

    I don’t think you need a male partner to accompany you to visit KAUST. Again, this is something to talk about with your relocation advisor.

    Sorry I’m not of more help. good luck!

  • Rizwan Ali

    Hello everyone! I just applied in the Masters program of Electrical Engineering at KAUST. Now I am hoping to get an interview call. I wanted to know, what sort of interview would it be ? (If anyone has a relevent experience) Would it comprise of technical questions or questions about the applicant and his aims/preparation etc.

  • Hi Rizwan — congrats on this big step! I don’t know the answer to this question. When you schedule the interview, I recommend asking this question to the person who has contacted you.

    Good luck!

  • anil

    Hi Claire,

    Congragulations on your baby!We (my DH and DD) may move to KAUST.My biggest concern is the air quality on campus.I have allergic rhinitis and air pollution is definetely the first thing ? want to avoid. I have heard that there is a pretty bad air pollution in Jeddah because of the industry and traffic.I am wondering what is the situation on campus.Also how is the indoor air quality and air conditioning inside the buildings. Thank you.

  • Hi Anil –

    I am not an allergy sufferer so I may not have the best information on this.

    We’re not close to the city or the city pollution at all, but living in the desert, there are a lot of allergens in the air. The wind picks up the sand and dirt and there is dust everywhere all the time. When there is a dust storm it can get quite bad even for non-allergy sufferers.

    I don’t know much about indoor air quality and allergies, but I can say that some of the houses have mold problems. I’m not sure how you can avoid this, except I can say that the houses in the Gardens area don’t have this problem as much as the houses in the Island area, so you could request a house in the Gardens.

    There is strong air conditioning in all buildings here – at KAUST and in Jeddah too. We are often cold when we are inside — even on the hottest days!

    I recommend requesting to speak with one of the KAUST Medical Clinic doctors about this before making a decision.

  • Guest

    Hie Claire
    May you provide your email address as I would like to ask something that may be outside the group discussion

  • Hi – I prefer to keep things public whenever possible. Whatever question you have, I’m sure someone else will have the same! In any case, I have written you an email and we can go from there.