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Sunday, May 27:  I’ve been an English Language Lecturer at the Foundation Institute of the University of Nizwa for two semesters.  A lot of readers have written to me because either they have applied for a job, or are considering applying, at the university.   They want information, and I can’t say I blame them.  Before I came here I was desperate for information, as is anyone who is thinking of moving to and working in a foreign country.  When I got a job offer, I just decided to dive in and take a gamble, despite having little to no information.  I had a desire to work in the Middle East for various reasons and I figured this would be as good a place as any.  Besides, one of my State Department friends told me that Oman is the most desirable post in the Middle East for foreign service officers, so it seemed like a dream come true.

the entrance to the University of Nizwa

I’m generally hesitant to answer questions from potential job applicants because this is my place of employment and I try to limit my posts about my job here.  As you can imagine, I don’t want to jeopardize my job by putting into print every little thing I think about the environment here.

welcome to the university!

I hope people will not be offended if I choose not to answer their messages and questions about the university.  My blog is meant to be a creative outlet for me.  I like to focus on my travels and photography and mostly amusing or interesting anecdotes about my experience in Oman.  So, I would like to request that readers who are interested in applying here, or have already accepted a job here, please read my posts on the university (see the menu at the top of my page).  Other than that, I hope my dear readers will understand if I don’t respond to any further messages regarding work at the university.

my office, shared with two other people

That being said, there are several more appropriate forums to find out information.  Most ESL teachers already know that there is an international job forum on Dave’s ESL Cafe where you can post questions and get answers.  Also, I have a friend who started a website for Expats in Oman: Omani – Expats’ Portal.  Though this website is relatively new, I still suggest that you post your questions there in hopes of getting answers from other like-minded expats.

walkways on the university campus

On Dave’s ESL Cafe there are some very negative and bitter posts; there are also some positive posts. There is probably some truth to both the positives and negatives.  Just keep in mind the source.  Since Dave’s ESL Cafe is anonymous, anyone at all can post without giving any information about themselves.  It is impossible to know whether the person who posted is rightfully bitter about the university itself or is just a bitter person to begin with.  Anyone who has a grudge against the university for whatever reason can post.  If a person posts a lot of negative things about every place he has worked, for instance, that person may just be an angry person in general.  We don’t know.  So, I advise that readers should take everything they read with a big grain of salt.

wall painting on one of the university walls

Here’s what I have to add.  Each culture has its challenges.  Everyone who has ever worked abroad knows this.  Some cultures are worse, some better, than others. People take to  cultures differently.  For example, I worked in Korea for a year, but no matter how much I tried to love it, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  Many other teachers absolutely loved it and have ended up staying for years.

walkways at the university

As for workplaces: I’ve worked for excellent and horrible companies all over, including in the USA.  The horrible workplaces are filled with negativity, infighting, low morale and high turnover. The excellent ones offer a positive, encouraging, inclusive and welcoming environment. Some workplace environments are simply better, or worse, than others. I think if you are a generally positive person who is resilient and flexible,  you will be okay here.  If not, you might be better off elsewhere.  I enjoy my life in Oman and I try hard to make the best of the situation.  I try to always remember why I’m here: to save money, to travel around the region, and to get more teaching and cultural experience.  I love being with my students, despite the general challenges found anywhere in the Gulf.

the Human Resources hallway

Here are some specific questions people have asked me, along with my answers:
How is the commute?
It takes me about 30 minutes to drive from my house, but it all depends on where you live and your transport situation.

a painting in the hallway

I’ve heard there is a bus that takes the teachers to and for the university.  How long is the trip?
There is and again, it depends where you live.  It’s pretty cheap transport; the university takes 10 rials out of your paycheck each month.

more covered walkways on the campus

Do you find it OK to be in the uni all day?
Yes, I’m especially happy when dealing with my students and direct teaching.
Does the uni provide sufficient materials for teaching?
Yes.  No working technology, but enough materials.

inside one hallway at the Foundation Institute

What are the negatives of working for Nizwa?  Positives?
See Dave’s ESL cafe.  I’m sorry, I can’t get into these myself.  Just read with an open mind and weigh what you read carefully.  You know yourself and what you can handle.
What’s the accommodation like?
My flat is wonderful.  You can see it in my blog, Home Sweet Home in the Abu Nooh Building.  It is a university flat so I pay nothing.  When the university provides the flat it comes furnished with basic stuff: TV, sofa and chairs, coffee table, king-size bed, desk, armoire, kitchen table & chairs.  You can get your own flat (I think the allowance is 175 rials, but I’m not sure) but remember under those circumstances, you must buy your own furniture.  This could be quite expensive.  In an earlier post, my first floor “villa” behind the shoe store, you can see the villa the university gave me early on; it had its own charm but it was, in essence, a real dive.  Slowly but surely I worked on them to get a new place.  Other people have done the same.  Just be aware when you first arrive, they are overwhelmed with new teachers, and have to stick people wherever, just to get them situated.  Later you can work with them to change your housing.

Building 13

Any social life?
Depends how outgoing you are.  But yes, there are lots of opportunities.
How many teachers?
Over 100??  Sorry, I’m really not sure of the number.
Many single older women?
Yes, lots!

covered parking ~ we need it in this heat!

Your blog gives the impression that you are very much enjoying life in Oman.
I am!!
I’d be interested in any downside so I can get a clear picture.
Please see Dave’s ESL Cafe.  You’ll have to make your own decision.  I hope you can understand I cannot go down that road.

basil on the university grounds

Overall, I try to be positive and try to get the most out of this  experience.  If you’re the same kind of person, you should be fine.  You create your life how you want it.  By the way, I AM renewing my contract for another year.  So, obviously I see more positives than negatives.
Good luck to all of you out there who are looking to come to the university.  Hope to see you here!