This morning offered part of our group the opportunity for a few hours of cultural experience with a visit to the National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Albujiri Heritage Park, and lunch on the 77th floor of Kingdom Centre, the 5th tallest skyscraper in Riyadh at 99 stories. This perforated building is the third tallest building in the world with a hole.
The two groups reconvened for the afternoon visit to the United States Embassy in Saudi Arabia. Located inside of a well-protected compound, the embassy was constructed in 1983 during President George Bush’s time in office. We walked about a quarter mile or so from the parking lot to the front door of the embassy.
Our conversation with Cultural Attaché Robin Yaeger focused on how best IUPUI could recruit and support Saudi students wishing to study in the United States. The key point that Ms. Yaeger and her team made were that Saudi students value family deeply and respect the advice of family members, so working with Saudi alumni to share their positive experiences at IUPUI would be a good approach. In addition, one of Ms. Yaeger’s colleagues suggested having a current Saudi student help make a video in Arabic promoting IUPUI to friends through social.
Of course, since Chancellor Paydar was the first chancellor to use Twitter back in the day, that would likely be our go-to channel for such a video. Perhaps our Office of Admissions might leap at this opportunity in collaboration with our IUPUI Saudi Student Club.
I should add here that delegation members have been proud to share the story of the IUPUI Saudi Student Club receiving an award for being the #1 club in the country for their volunteerism and engagement in the community from the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission in Washington, D.C. This kind of engagement reflects the spirit of our campus and shows one of the important roles our international students play in the Indianapolis community.
As we were leaving the embassy, a voice called out, and we paused to investigate. Somehow Jacob Surface, part of the embassy staff, heard about our visit and greeted us in the hallway. He grew up on a Christmas tree farm in Crawfordsville, Indiana, earned his bachelor’s degree from Wabash College and received his masters in public administration from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bloomington. He is also an alumnus of the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program. He has been serving in the diplomatic corps for over four years but returns to Indiana to visit family. We hope he will return for the upcoming anniversary celebrations.
We closed the day with one of the highlights of the trip so far: the Alumni Reception. There’s almost nothing better than travelling over 7,000 miles to be greeted by the magical combination of Saudi and Hoosier hospitality that our graduates brought to this event. I had conversations with many of my fellow IU alums who shared their stories of Bloomington and Indianapolis, of living on the Indy Canal, of slipping on the brick sidewalks between the Chemistry Building and Ballantine Hall in Bloomington, of putting their degrees to work on the massive Metro project in Riyadh.
The biggest challenge at these events is time. There is never enough time to talk with everyone as much as I would like. If I had my way, I would split myself into 50 mini-Beckys so that I could talk with everyone, learn about their experience and share just a little bit of mine. I know that this sounds strange, and that in reading it, some of you might shudder at the thought of 50 Beckys, so this may be a good moment to close today’s post.
Thanks for being part of this journey, and I hope you return tomorrow for the latest photos, updates, and stories from the IUPUI team in Saudi Arabia.
Please feel free to reach out to me directly with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.