Sometimes, our destination is handed to us. We’re offered a job in a new city, or a new country. This is how I was called to the Sultanate of Oman. To be honest, I’d never even heard of Oman when I was called there. So, it was a surprise that I ended up staying two years.
I became interested in the Middle East after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. At that time, I am ashamed to say I didn’t know anything about Arab culture or Islam. I started reading profusely and studying Arabic. I wrote a novel in which one of the main characters was an Egyptian man. I’d never known any Egyptians nor had I ever traveled to the Middle East. My interest expanded to international affairs and I started a Master’s program in International Commerce & Policy at George Mason University in September of 2006. Between my two years of study, in the summer of 2007, I went on an Arabic study abroad program to Cairo, Egypt.
After I completed my Master’s degree in May of 2008, I wanted to get a job in international development. I was particularly interested in democracy-building or women’s empowerment in the Middle East. However, I applied for over 250 jobs and came up empty-handed. I would never know if potential employers were put off by my age, which at that time was 52; the fact that my career had been in an unrelated field: 15 years in financial services (I was a stockbroker, and before that a banker – loan officer & credit analyst); or the fact that I’d been a stay-at-home mom for the previous 15 years.
I eventually decided I could get to the Middle East by teaching abroad. I had no qualifications to teach English as a Foreign Language, except for my B.A. in English (literature). So, I spent a year in South Korea (at ages 55-56) teaching under EPIK (English Program in Korea) with the Korean Ministry of Education. I was told they’d hire anyone with a B.A. in any subject. As soon as I put in my year there, and concurrently got the online TEFL certification, I started searching for jobs in the Middle East.
I found an ad placed by University of Nizwa on Dave’s ESL Cafe, the source in which I’ve found all my teaching abroad jobs except the first one in Korea, which I found through the Canadian recruiting company, Teachaway. It was early summer of 2011, after I’d spent my first year teaching abroad in Korea (catbird in korea).
On July 5, 2011, after a phone interview with three Omani men on America’s Independence Day, I received an offer letter to teach English as a Second Language at the Foundation Institute of the University of Nizwa in the Sultanate of Oman. During that same week, I also received a job offer to teach at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The salary offered by the Saudis was about $700/month higher, but after reading about Oman and learning about the pleasant life I could have there, I accepted the offer from the University of Nizwa.
On July 16, I sent the requested documents to the university and the university sent those on to the Ministry of Higher Education for its approval. After more back and forth and more requests for “experience certificates,” I was apparently approved by the Ministry of Higher Education at the end of July. On the morning of August 20, I received my work permit! I really was going to live and work in Nizwa, Oman in mid-September of 2011!
To put on the final touches, on August 22, I received my plane ticket. I had told the Human Resources Department that my nearest airport was Dulles International Airport (IAD) near Washington, D.C. The ticket, however, had me flying out of Dallas/Forth Worth (DFW) in Texas! Dallas/Dulles ~ only two vowels off! Ah, the perils of communication when working and living abroad… 🙂 Two days later, I got the corrected ticket. I would leave from IAD late on Thursday, September 15, arriving in Muscat, Oman late Friday night, September 16. I was told that “someone” would meet me at the airport.
The University of Nizwa was established in 2002 by the Decree of His Majesty the Sultan Qaboos as the first non-profit university in the Sultanate of Oman; it remains the only institution of its kind in the nation. On October 16, 2004, the University of Nizwa opened the doors to its inaugural class of 1,200 students, 88% of whom were Omani women. The current campus is located near the base of the famous Jebal al-Akhdhar in Birkat al-Mouz, 20 km NW of Nizwa. The construction of a new campus, located near the new Farq-Hail highway began in March of 2010.
Though the student body comprises native Arabic speakers, the official language of academic instruction is English, making the university a bilingual institution. English language proficiency is achieved in a year-long intensive course as part of the academic General Foundation Program.
The Foundation Program is the University preparatory program for entering students. According to the guidelines established by the Ministry of Higher Education, it offers English Language, Computer Literacy, Mathematics, and General Study Skills.
*Wednesday, August 24, 2011*
“THE CALL TO PLACE” INVITATION: I invite you to write a post on your own blog about what enticed you to choose a particular destination. If you don’t have a blog, I invite you to write in the comments. If your destination is a place you love and keep returning to, feel free to write about that. If you want to see the original post about the subject, you can check it out here: imaginings: the call to place.
Include the link in the comments below by Wednesday, June 26 at 1:00 p.m. EST. My next “call to place” post is scheduled to post on Thursday, June 27.
If you’d like, you can use the hashtag #wanderessence.
This will be an ongoing invitation, on the fourth Thursday of each month. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂
I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!