Our Fifth KAUSTiversary: The Value of a Long-term Mindset

By | August 24, 2016

We travel often, but we don’t travel light anymore! Parenting protip: there are no awards to be won by packing light with kids!

Five years ago this summer we moved to Saudi. It’s been a wild ride and we feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to live in our little KAUST bubble. The community has more than doubled in population in the time we’ve been here (from 3000 to more than 7000 people), and we’ve seen the community mature from a small group of founders to a fully functioning town. It’s been both remarkable and inspiring.

When we first moved here, as I noted in the past, we found that many of our KAUST peers had goals of staying for either three years or five years. We always felt that our goal was to stay at KAUST as long as life continued to be good. We theorized that if we had a long-term vision for our life at KAUST, that mindset would translate into long-term visions for our professional efforts (thus making KAUST more likely to be successful overall and for us both personally and professionally). Now that we have reached that five-year threshold, I’ve found myself evaluating this theory.

How did that work out?

This summer the kids and I traveled out of the country for nearly 3 months. Before leaving, part of me wondered if we’d love being back in our own culture(s) and if we’d start to long for life in the West. On our journey, we visited 3 countries and 7 cities and it was a whirlwind of fun. But it was also hard. In particular, we saw life in America and England (our home countries) to be much harder than the life we live at KAUST. Sure, we had more diversity in our enrichment activities, nice cool summer weather, delivery groceries and amazon.com. But we also had to worry about traffic and crime and keeping-up-with-the-joneses. We missed our inexpensive childcare options, our easy access to work, doctors, and the beach, and we missed our uniquely multi-cultural bubble which exists nowhere else on the planet.

After our long summer away, what sticks with me is that we are beyond lucky to have our long summers away (a benefit which simply would not be an option if we lived in America or England). And it is precisely the long summer away which inspired in us a desire to reinvest our efforts in KAUST, to continue to build it and shape it into a place where we’ll enjoy living for 20 more years to come.

Will that vision become a reality? I have no idea. But it’s certainly worth a try.


Our itinerary for our long summer away included stops in Lanzarote, Madrid, Philadelphia, DC, Baltimore, Boulder, and Cambridge, UK. Many families at KAUST travel like this over the summer.

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  • Kevin Stensberg

    Hello Claire, Thank you so much for all of the work you’ve put into this blog. i’m moving to KAUST in 3 weeks and your many insights and recommendations have been most appreciated! Happy 5 year anniversary! – Kevin Stensberg

  • Thanks Kevin! That’s very nice of you to say. I really enjoy writing here and am glad that my posts have been useful to you. I hope you like it here as much as we do. Where are you coming from? What will you be doing?

  • Kevin Stensberg

    I’ll be coming from Washington, DC and will be working as a Graduate Services Manager. I leave already on the 23rd and start on the 25th – getting excited!

  • I’m from DC :) You’re the second person I’ve met through my online efforts who starts on the 25th. We’ll be in India when you arrive, but I hope you have a smooth arrival. Let me know if you want to grab a coffee sometime. You’ll find me in outlook.

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  • KA

    I’ll be arriving at KAUST soon as part of the VSRP, and am thrilled for the adventure. Your blog has been so helpful!

  • I hope you have a great time here and enjoy it as much as we do! Thanks for your kind words — and for reading!

  • Al Su

    Hi Claire- Great blog. How is the cost of living? What is the monthly budget one should anticipate spending in KAUST with a family of 4 , 2 adults and 2 children.

  • Hi Al Su – Thanks for your kind words.

    I have been asked this question before but have so much trouble answering it. I think if you’d like to buy local foods and avoid all extras you could live off very little money here at KAUST. You can also buy lots of imported foods, eat out, and go on extravagant trips – which is obviously expensive. I think the cost of living is deeply unique to the values of each family. Perhaps your relocation advisor can suggest more exact numbers :-)

    Hope this helps!

  • Tanya Rossing

    Hey Claire, What is the expected attire of women on KAUST?

  • There is a dress code that can be provided by your relocation advisor. Essentially it says that we can wear what we like as long as it is respectful of the multicultural society which KAUST is composed of. Conservative, non-revealing clothing is encouraged, but we do not need to wear an abaya.