Yesterday was the anniversary of our 8th year at KAUST, or as we like to call it, our KAUSTiversary! On July 11, 2011, Kevin and I packed up our life in the UK and moved to KAUST. It was an experiment and an adventure – one that has shaped us forever.
I have fond memories of our arrival at KAUST. We loved KAUST immediately: it was full of brilliant people, sunny every day, and the allure of living at the beach rather than gray-old-England was compelling to say the least.
Our first months here were filled with bike rides and dinner parties, trips to Ottoman Castles and ancient tombs in the desert. When we started a family, we became further invested in KAUST and have always felt it is the perfect place for a young family.
The past year
This past year has been an interesting one as so much has changed in Saudi and at KAUST. We have a new president at KAUST, and there are so many positive changes happening in Saudi, especially regarding the loosening of social restrictions and the addition of world-class entertainment offerings, changes in laws to create more opportunities for women, and future plans for tourism in Saudi. Nearly every day, we read new headlines about the positive changes happening in this country, and we could not be more thrilled to witness it all first-hand.
We met a fantastic family when we first arrived at KAUST. They had older kids and had a family dinner ritual which we have now made our own. High-Low, as it’s called, is a conversation-starter and an opportunity for sharing and reflection. The premise is simple: tell the table the high and the low of your day. Usually, my 6 year old says something like “my high was playing with friends and my low was… I didn’t have a low!”
Last night, we went to dinner at the new Steak Seven restaurant located in the heart of the Gardens Neighborhood and reflected on a meta view of our highs and lows over our last 8 years at KAUST. I wanted to share a bit about our chat with you.
Focusing on The Highs
When we put 8 years at aggregate and asked ourselves, “what is the best part about being at KAUST” the answers came flying out.
On a personal front, we love our easy lifestyle, lifelong friendships, and cultural learning opportunities that living in our community has afforded us. But the thing that sticks out the most is the opportunity to travel. We have loads of vacation days, and an international airport 1-hour away. We have explored so many beautiful places both near and far from Arabia, in a way that would never have been possible under other circumstances. From the Maldives, to Sri Lanka, Italy and Spain, Jordan and Oman… and so much more. The opportunity to explore and adventure is by far the best part of living our lives the way we do.
On a professional front, we surprised even ourselves by realizing that the high of working here has been our opportunity for career learning and progression. We have both been trusted with important and impactful work that supports the efforts of the university both today and for the future. We’re regularly given new challenges and usually given the support we need to achieve our goals. We feel that we are doing our small part at helping to achieve the KAUST mission.
Managing The Lows
The low of living at KAUST is living far from our families and home-friends. This is a big sacrifice, but hopefully we are able to manage it through visits home, social media updates, WhatsApp, and phone calls. Honestly, I’m not sure how people lived abroad before WhatsApp and Skype! While these tools are not substitute for in-person connections, they sure do help as we are constantly in touch with those close to us, regardless of their locations. For that I am eternally grateful.
For us, living at KAUST is a choice. It’s not a choice we made once, but a choice we make annually, monthly, weekly, and daily. Always, so far anyways, with the result that we choose to invest our personal and professional lives here. We’ve both been headhunted for other jobs, but we do the math of the highs and lows of life, and reassuringly, we always seem to land firmly on the ground, reinvesting ourselves in the KAUST lifestyle, the KAUST community, and the KAUST mission.
Here’s to another great year ahead!