History, Energy, Politics, and Partnership in Historic Visit to Saudi Arabia

NYUAD students take a study trip to Saudi Arabia as part of the J-Term course, Energy, Development and International Politics.

Last month, NYU Abu Dhabi saw its first batch of January Term students travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and I was one of the lucky participants. This chance to visit Saudi Arabia was made possible thanks to the collaboration between NYUAD and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, in Dhahran. And although we had only two brief days there, our group gained first hand experience into how the global oil and gas industry functions, and what the future of development in this industry may be.

The study trip was part of a three-week J-Term course, Energy, Development and International Politics. Covering broad topics such as alternative energy and oil, the course also weaved in elements of history, economics, environment and politics.

Our hosts at King Fahd University were gracious and welcoming; with an international student body that partners with other universities and research institutes around the world, the university in Saudi Arabia is not that different from our own here in Abu Dhabi. Not only does it teach in English, all students must be able to engage in rigorous academic programs and excel when presented with opportunities for international collaboration.

The highlight of our trip was a visit to one of the biggest oil companies in the country — Saudi Aramco. Being one of the world's biggest oil exporters, Saudi Aramco also sets the standard for many companies worldwide. We saw where the employees worked, lived, and even had lunch with a few of them. And as if to confirm that NYU is truly a global network university, we met a NYU post-graduate working at the company. During our time in the compound, I could feel the strong sense of community spirit built since the establishment of the company in the 1930s. My classmates and I discussed our ideas about sustainable development with experts in the field and learned more about the vision of the company. Just before heading back to the airport, we ended our first historic visit to Saudi Arabia with a photo at Dammam No. 7 well —where oil was first discovered, and today produces 1,500 barrels per day.

I am honored to be one of the first students to make this trip and hope that the NYUAD collaboration with institutions from Saudi Arabia will continue to blossom. With my first J-term course in NYUAD officially over, I now realize how fast time has passed by. It was truly an intensive January for my first year here in NYUAD, but it was well worth the hard work. This course had gone beyond my expectations and I will remember it for a long time to come.