Posted by Bob Simmons
Last week FCRC member, James Cooper, PhD shared his 9 year experience at King Fahd University (1998-2007).  King Fahd University was started in the 1960’s originally closely associated with Aramco (KFU of Petroleum and Minerals). It is now a public university administered under the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In some ways it looks like any university in the US (see web site) but it also differs in many ways.  Student body is male only.  The acceptance rate is 2% making it the most selective and best university in the Middle East.  The curriculum is limited to engineering, science and business.  Notably absent are the many liberal art majors expected at most US schools.  Most instruction is in English.
Students could be considered more like employees than customers. They are paid, housed and their attendance and performance closely watched. The first year is often a year of orientation with requirements to fulfill in English and math.  Nonetheless, for most students English is a second language making communication with a professor from the US potentially challenging.
Finally, Jim shared some personal reminiscences.  Exposure to the general culture was limited and consisted primarily of shopping and dining out.  Entertainment was hard to find.  (Soccer was popular but limited to males only).  Alcohol was prohibited but access to alcohol and entertainment was possible in private settings.  The last shared memory was Jim’s learning of the 9/11 disaster the night before his morning class and his need to process this in Saudi Arabia.