If you have stumbled upon this blog by chance or by reference, someone out there loves you. We promise to give you an unbiased advice that can be cross checked.
First of all, if you do not have already a job or you do not have any other job offers, then take the acm/aum offer. It is going to be tough and if you get a good deal, it could be financially worth it. Continue reading to appreciate the context of this advice.
If you have a job, however low paid or stressful, you should not resign. Consider taking extended unpaid leave, sabbatical, sick leave, or time off. Try whatever you do NOT to resign before coming here. Otherwise, we are confident you will regret not having the option to leave.
Here is how it works. HR will usually find you using Linkedin, online searching, or most recently by contacting your embassy in Kuwait. Embassy contact is a peculiar way to recruit. It is a sign how much acm and aum are getting desperate. For many, Skype interview with HR is the starting point.
What are they looking for?
Of course, they will want to make sure you can teach the subject. Experience is not essential. In fact, you will be surprised to know they prefer if you do not have much experience. Fresh PhD graduates or PhD working in the industry are their preferred choices. They want to reprogramme new recruits and it helps if you are not exposed to real universities. Also, an essential characteristic they are looking for is timid people. Individuals who appear submissive and look a bit desperate for the job. In fact, Mohanad, the provost, was quoted by more than one person as asking new recruits if they are the type who sits in the corner quietly and just does the work. Mohanad always appears in the final interview when they fly you to Kuwait or when they come to your country to interview a batch of you in one go. Mohanad is a Middle Eastern, heavy set, average height, middle-aged guy. He speaks softly and may come across as a gentle father figure, but his actions are something else. Try not to stare back and answer every question calmly, and he will hire you. Also look out if the chairman or his son are there, although this is rare. They will only appear if you are applying for a top position such as high management position or professorship position. Either way, looking timid and submissive is precisely what they are looking for. If you are interested to know what kind of mentality the management has to faculty, you may want to read this Quotes from the chairman.
Signing the contract:
There is a copy of the contract that you can find online, along with an explanation of several illegal clauses. You can find it here. Also before signing the contract, make sure you check that the salary they are paying you fairly here. The HR is known to haggle like a fish market seller, that is why they never advertise positions with salaries shown. You need to have some balls but also be polite about it suggesting that you are aware that Kuwait is expensive. Kuwait is a costly place to be. Renting a one-bedroom starts for 200KD in places you would not want to be seen, very small space, and/or the smell is awful. For a decent one-bedroom flat, expect to spend 300KD to 350KD. If you are a family, the rents for a decent place is 400KD to 550KD. Your monthly groceries can vary from 150 to 200KD for a single person, or 200KD to 300KD for a family. Transport is not cheap either, you will need 100KD a month if you rely on taxis or 160KD if you rent a car. We strongly recommend you do not buy a car, at least until you know for sure if you want to live here. There is nothing for free that you can do in your spare time. Swimming clubs, cinemas, eating outs, and everything that you can imagine will cost you a lot more than you think. As a single person, you will need 1000KD a month just to survive, or 1400KD if you want to have some quality life. As a family, you will need a minimum of 1500KD, but your cost could go up to 2000KD if you have children. This university will not pay the full school fees. They will offer you 2000KD per child, but none of the decent schools are 2000KD a year. The good ones start at 3000KD a year, and you need to pay the difference. Get your calculator out and do your own math. Some people came here, and instead of making money, they are now in debts.
The medical that is offered is good and does cover you for quite a few things. But do not expect it to cover you for everything, those insurance people are temperamental, and it is hard to guess if they will cover you this time or not. The life insurance offered is a joke. They do not tell you how much it will cover you for a reason. One faculty insisted on knowing because she had a life insurance back home and was wondering if she should cancel it. Eventually, she got the answer. The life insurance covers only two months salary. Yeap, AUM expects two-month salary to be enough for your family to survive on in the unlikely event you die.
Kuwait immigration paperwork:
Probably the most painful experience you will ever have in getting a residency. To get your first work permit to enter the country, they will ask you for an array of medical tests that will cost you anything between $200 and $700 in your country. HR will not pay for it. This includes X-ray chest scan, medical report, and a test on a variety of transmitted diseases. Also, you will need to notarize and certify all your documents including your certificates from both your foreign ministry and the Kuwait embassy in your country at your own expense. Once you come to Kuwait, you will have to do all the medical tests again at designated government clinics, because they do not trust your documents to be authentic. You will also have to get your fingers scanned in case you ever commit a crime. We are hearing that they will be introducing DNA swab soon. Your privacy is violated in every sense.
Your family and children cannot join you when you start. No. But if you are lucky enough to have a Western passport, they could stay initially with you on a three months tourist visa. Otherwise, you have to leave them behind and come on your own. HR will not help you complete your family residency paperwork. You will have to do these on your own time and expense, dealing with many immigration employees who really cannot be bothered and speak poor English. Same applies to getting your driving licence. Everything is a big deal here. A slight difference in the spelling of names, your partner is not from the same country as you, you are born in a different country than your passport, and the list goes on. The stories that we have heard always surprise us. And yes some people, though rare, decide to finish their first year and then leave because they just give up.
Where do we start? We will need a book to explain the crazy working environment. So we will just summarise them in keywords, and please read this and other blogs carefully before you make up your mind. Keywords: overworked, little holidays, no life, teach anything, pass all students, use Excel, use banner, use Moodle, respond quickly, one minute meeting notices, come early and leave late, no complaints, people suffering, people resigning, people fired, people depressed, fake smiles, management asks you to do something, management changes its mind and asks you to do it in a different way, management changes their mind again and wants you to do it in a very different way, no one is sure how to do it, no one trusts no one, someone in management comes to your class to view your lessons without prior notice, students are generally nice but they know you are new and they want a free ride, a student complaint is a huge deal even if you are right and they are wrong, and the list goes on.
The 100-day probation:
Some people get fired on their 100th day for showing some academic personality of questioning rules or regulations. There are, of course, those who are plain bad at teaching too. The biggest problem with being fired on or before your 100th day is that you get nothing other than a ticket back home and the clothes you came with. It is an utter disaster for these people. A living nightmare for the many recruits who just want to pass that hurdle. What do you get if you pass it? The comfort of knowing that if acm or aum fire you, then you will get three months payment advancement- hurray! Rubbish really when you consider what sacrifices you have done to come here. In your first 100 days, do not show any initiative or interest in standing out. You will regret it either way. If they do not like it, you will be fired. If they do like it, you will be promoted and that is possibly worse. Read our post on AUM Special Assignment: say NO.
Living in Kuwait:
It is hard to explain, but everyone complains about the lack of sleep. We attribute this to several factors including the working environment but also living in an air conditioning environment which is dry, in an environment like Kuwait which is already very dry, along with the heat and dust that makes breathing difficult. You find yourself having sleepless nights and coming to work exhausted all the time. It is like there is not enough oxygen in the air.
Another issue is that Kuwait is a highly conservative country. For expats, they complain about not having nightlife to do other than eating. Kuwait has the highest percentage of restaurants per person. You will find yourself putting on weight. As always there are ways to bypass some of these issues. Some expats do their get together to have some sense of normality, but it is just not the same.
Do not be tempted to borrow money, otherwise, you will find yourself stuck here and this is the worse thing you can do to yourself. This place is like being in juvenile detention under normal circumstance, but if you get yourself into debts, it becomes a real prison.
You are about to make the biggest decision in your life. You are about to leave your job, colleagues, family, friends, home, town, country, and a life you grew accustomed to it. You have studied for many years and worked hard to secure a job that pays you well but also treats you with respect. The money is tempting, but make sure you get the fair amount. If you have good working experience and impactful research, then stay away. Other universities in Kuwait will offer you the same amount and treat you much better. We have friends in the American University of Kuwait and the Gulf University for Science and Technology, and they tell us this is not what they experience. We know a professor who has been working for AUK for 14 years now and she sees this place as a place she will continue to work for until the day she retires. You will be hard pressed to find anyone at ACM or AUM who has been here for more than 4 years and thinks the same. Yet this university has been around in one form or another for 18 years according to the chairman. You will be living in fear here. This live blog of who is being fired and About Us may give you a clue as to how bad it is.
Talk to someone:
Of course, you only heard from one source, and you may want to cross check these facts. You are more than welcome. ACM and AUM do not display contacts of employees online, unlike AUK and GUST who are proud to show them online. But do not worry, there are two places you could find faculty to contact. You will need to have a profile as well to be able to communicate with them. Pick one or more who are native speakers to you. Yahni, if you are German choose a German person and message them in your mother tongue. Make sure they can see your research profile to know that you are a genuine person. And read between the lines what they will tell you. These people live in fear of being fired. Do not pick profiles with no photos, we are not sure who these are.
AUM Google Scholar & AUM Research Gate.
If you have any questions you would like to put to us, write in the comments and we will do our best to respond.