Not too long ago someone left a comment on my blog suggesting that I think about working at the Saudi Aramco Expatriate Schools (SAES). If you have been an international teacher for a couple of years (or you’re in your sixth year like me) then you have heard about SAES. I had previously not given it too much thought beyond the high pay its famous for because it is known as being an ideal spot for families. Being a single lady, I didn’t consider it until someone pointed it out to me as an option. So lets take a look at it together!
SAES is like a school district and has six schools on various camps (Dhahran, Abqaiq, Ras Tanura, and Udhailiyah) and over 4000 students! I will focus on the Dhahran camp in this post because it is the largest with the biggest elementary school.
1. What type of school is it?
US Accredited, K-9
2. Student population:
Their website states that there are 60 nationalities at the school, but I can’t find a break down of the nationalities.
3. Class size:
Class size is pretty average for most international schools I’ve looked at, 20 students according to the SAES website. Also, many classes have teaching assistants and other volunteers making for fantastic ratios!
I can’t find info about the technology in the classroom other than projectors being in every classroom as well as computers (mentioned in a video on their website). However, I have also read and heard that these schools are some of the best resourced schools in the world, so I imagine that if teachers wanted to have a class ipad set that they could easily get one (note: a poster below said they don’t have a class ipad set). Also, according to Wikipedia (never sure about the accuracy though!) each classroom has a smartboard. Anyone have confirmation on this?
15-17% retirement plan is perhaps the highest plan I’ve ever seen!
6. Overall package:
After many hours of searching online and reading forums it is hard to find any definite salary scale, but it seems like an average US teacher with a masters degree and a few years of experience is said to make about $5000-$7000USD per month. On top of that are some of the best benefits I’ve seen in the world! Their website says common benefits include, “retirement/insurance plan worth 15-17% of base salary, a performance-based incentive plan, annual travel home, and dependent education.” However, from what I’ve read it seems like this is only the beginning!
According to this blog written by a man in 2008 the benefits included, “…income will be tax free, housing is included, all basic furniture and appliances are included, all utilities, travel allowance each year, 401k and a separate pension, zero deductible health insurance including $0 for prescriptions anywhere in the world, interest free car/golf cart loan, free doctoral tuition, settling in allowance, shipping and storage allowance, $ for unused sick days each year, COLA each year, new laptop computer for personal use, repatriation travel allowance each year to leave the country for 2 weeks. They will give you $9000 to either sell your house or rent it out with a real estate property management company.” I don’t know how out of date this is now, but I feel like SAES deserves a double point for this category!
7. City Profile:
From what I gather, you can get about everything you need on the actual Aramco compounds. The biggest school and the biggest compound is found in Dhahran. The population of the compound is 11,400 which is bigger than the town where my family owns property in Oregon, lol, off topic! According to their website, “Al-Khobar is a 20 minute drive from Dhahran, where you’ll find shops and restaurants.” I don’t think I would ever get bored in a community that is said to feature, “… one of the Middle East’s most challenging golf courses, and has three recreational centers with swimming pools, tennis and squash courts, a bowling alley, library and movie theater. Other activities include horseback riding at the community’s farm, exercising on hike-and-bike paths, and soccer and rugby on the company fields.”
This kind of compound living is not unfamiliar to me because I once worked on the US Navy base in Yokosuka, Japan where it took 20 minutes to get from my room to the gate. It is also similar (but a million times better) than the residential compound I lived on for two years in Venezuela sponsored by another oil company. However, this compound (and the other Aramco compounds that I’ve read about) sound way better!
Of course, there are the very real concerns with life outside of the Aramco compound bubble: not being able to drive a car (you CAN drive on the compounds), not being able to date in public, needing to wear an abaya covering you from shoulders to toe, and giving up wine with my dinner.
8. Salsa Dancing:
I think I might have to take a point off for this one. Clearly salsa dancing can’t be popular in a country where women can’t be seen speaking with men (let alone standing in closed position). I was told by someone who works there that there is a big Latino presence in the Dhahran camp and that salsa dancing happens there… but that doesn’t sound like a sure thing.
I think I will have to give it a half point just because while I’ve been living in Venezuela and haven’t been going to dance clubs, I have gone to some fantastic house parties hosted by dance crazy Latino friends!
I can’t find an exact breakdown of teacher nationality or ages, but I am guessing that since they want a minimum of seven years of experience that most teachers would be at least thirty years old. I have read that there are many married couples but that SAES is hiring more singles in the past few years. It sounds like I would fit in!
I looooovvveee Middle Eastern food- especially schawarma and hummus (which I typically make at home). Mezze and kababs are also delicious options. Check out the Saudi Tourism site for more specific dishes for each province of Saudi Arabia.
The one downside is that you wont find any bars or stores selling wine to go with your lamb kabab. I keep telling my personal trainer that I will stop drinking so I can get fit faster… this place just might ensure that I would actually go through with it! Some people also might be bummed about the lack of bacon in Saudi Arabia, but I’ve heard that it can be had with only a short 30 minute drive to Bahrain!
Here are some extra links in case you are like me and you are obsessed with researching places you may or may not ever actually go to:
http://forum.aramcoexpats.com/ HUGE forum with tons of Q&A
http://www.blueabaya.com/ beautifully written website by a Finnish woman married to a Saudi local
http://www.bankerinthesun.com/ a bit more business focused which appeals to my business background
This website has tons of info: http://saudiscenes.blogspot.com/ and now https://www.facebook.com/pages/Saudi-Scenes/170080493090423 with lots of pictures
Please comment! Have you been to any of the Aramco compounds/Saudi Arabia, or know somebody who has? Would you want to work there? Have you or someone you know worked at the Saudi Aramco Expatriate Schools? Can you add any info to what I’ve listed above?
A couple times a month I check out schools that I would love to work at one day and rate them based on my own crazy rubric. Check out all of these posts by following this link.