I’m currently at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia right now for the Winter Enrichment Program (WEP)! After a long flight with a layover in Frankfurt, five other Techers and I finally made it here safely : ) It was my first time flying on Lufthansa and I was satisfied by their service. My first impression of KAUST is that it is literally an oasis in the middle of the desert and very new, very luxurious. We arrived late at night, but I noticed a ton of palm trees planted around campus. When we got to KAUST Inn 1, they gave us keys to our rooms, which ended up being in the Garden Homes. Yes, we are staying in homes, not hotel rooms. This two-story house I’m currently living in with three other girls has five bedrooms and seven bathrooms! There are two living rooms, one with a large 60 inch TV. They even stocked the fridge and kitchen with some snacks and drinks for us to have. Tara said that if we put two or three of these enormous houses together, the size would essentially be a Caltech undergraduate house. We found out on a tour that graduate students have similar spacious housing, although they are smaller for an individual student or two students. This place is definitely very accommodating and comfortable for graduate students. The KAUST community is also self-sufficient and includes K-12 schools for children. There is a large Tamimi Market, which we found out is actually managed by Safeway. On the first day, we had a lunch buffet with introductions and a presentation by Admissions Office. We were also given a brief tour of the campus. KAUST is beautiful and contains 13,500 palm trees and over 25,000 species of plants from around the world. On day two, we got to see the visualization lab tour and then got to choose a second lab tour. I went on the nanofabrication and imaging lab tour and got a chance to see their NMR facilities. KAUST has ten NMRs, including a 950 MHz Bruker. Because KAUST has a large endowment, second only to Harvard, they have state of the art facilities and instruments. And, since it was inaugurated in 2009, the buildings are very new and clean. However, I noticed that their labs and campus are fairly empty and quiet with few grad students. Although Caltech may not have as many NMRs as KAUST, Caltech still has enough space and sufficient machines to do research. KAUST is definitely an attractive place for any prospective graduate student or scientist; however, I want to stay in the US for graduate school and prefer somewhere a little less isolated. This trip has definitely been a cultural experience as well and I look forward to the rest of the events KAUST has planned for us.
Until next time,