The College: Can I even write this? You don't bite the hand that feeds you, you just don't do it. But what kind of person would I be if I glossed over this and made it look sunshine and rainbows. I've never identified the name of the place anyway, so I guess I ought to be OK...The college borders on being an unfunny joke and a disaster of bureaucracy. The wrong people are in charge and they often do the wrong things, often they do nothing. They recruit you, bring you here, and then forget you. They treat you like a mushroom and are seemingly incapable of even the simplest tasks when it comes to human resources. They don't read or act on anything in the multiple reports you have to submit. They continually insult their own culture and country by blaming everything on "culture" and your lack of understanding. i.e. You don't receive pay one month, you ask your boss about it explaining that your family may be evicted from their home. He looks you straight in the eyes and says "ok, ok, In'shallah". He gives you through deeds, actions and words the impression that he couldn't give a shit less if your wife and kids live on the street, why are you bugging him? This isn't his job! When you keep on him about it, he tells you that you don't understand the culture...really? This is the culture of don't get paid for work already done? Oh OK.
The Students: Same the world over, students are students. Were not talking Harvard or Oxford here. However, more so than most Western Universities, I have some serious screw-ups to contend with. The state of private education in the Kingdom is in a shambles. I don't know if somebody is paying off somebody else or what, but I have the full spectrum of students. I have some students that I'm surprised can even get up in the morning and put on clothes. I know for a fact that some wear sandals because there is no way on this earth that they can tie their shoes. However, I also have students that are bilingual and have come out of the crappy Saudi school system and despite any problems found there, excel. I have a few that I would put up against any American student I've ever had. Some of my students are mature, others are incredibly immature. Throughout the year students have threatened and harassed teachers and committed acts or said things that would have them thrown out of any western school. All in all, they really aren't that great, however the ones who are great really go out of their way to show their appreciation for what you are doing. Now if the college would just let me eject 25% and place another 25% on academic probation...we'd be in business!
The Staff: I should probably wait to write this one as a staff member really pissed me off tonight, but then again many of them do it all throughout the year. The staff range from completely incompetent to incredible world class educators. From what I understand they also range from completely honest and un-bribeable such as myself to dirty as hell and not only bribeable but actually soliciting money from students. I get damn sick of talking about my salary and benefits all the time, which seems to be something somebody always wants to talk about. I get damn sick of defending my 12 years of experience in EMS actually doing my job to some idiot with a Masters degree who has never worked or touched a patient, but thinks his masters qualifies him to be special. I notice that when it comes to salary and perks, most staff feel that we should all be equal. One big happy family, one big team. However when it comes to helping out the one and only westerner and non Arabic speaker at the campus...I'm on my own. Finding things to do, buying furniture, getting to work, renting an apartment, getting internet access, paying bills, opening a bank account, only a very select few staff members have helped me at all. The others pretend they didn't notice I can't speak Arabic, they drive past me walking home, they arrive to work after me and they leave 3 hours before I do every day. They ignore student cheating and don't even try and report the problems. In terms of adjusting to Saudi Arabia, my students have been the ones who really reached out a helping hand. Without them, I wouldn't have lasted 30 days...I have to wonder if some of the other staff weren't hoping for exactly that...My Dean, My Vice Dean, My entire department, and a few select others are deserving of my utmost appreciation.
Summer school starts on Saturday. I have a lecture lab schedule for the first 2 weeks, and then just a lab schedule. However, for the time being, I'm doing good just relaxing and enjoying the fact that we survived another semester. 4 more of those and I'll be good! To the Students and staff that went so far out of their way to make me feel welcome, thank you, thank you and thank you. I am forever in your debt and eternally grateful. My family and loved ones at home thank you as well. So as we end the year and prepare for the next I give you these words of advice. The past is past and nothing can change it. The future is yet unwritten. Enjoy your break, but seriously examine what about this past year you would do differently if you could, what would you have accomplished? Now apply that to the upcoming year. For those of you not in Summer semester, I'll see you in September!