2023 Pre-Departure Orientation and Arrival Orientations




Cohort 15

Image 1: Cohort 15

On July 31st through August 2nd, 2023, the KGSP welcomed the 104 students of Cohort 15 to the program at KAUST’s campus for a Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO). The program’s fifteenth Cohort had the opportunity to connect and meet with each other, 24 KAUST staff faculty, over 30 current KGSP students, including Peer Support Guides (PSGs), and 17 alumni, throughout various events that prepared them for success in their academic and professional development in the United States. This year’s PDO theme, “Unlocking the Power of the KGSP: Empowering Minds, Transforming Futures,” highlighted the unique opportunities students have by joining the program. Following PDO, students embarked on journeys to the US where they were greeted by KGSP Advisors who spent the next few days conducting arrival orientations to better support the new Cohort with acclimation. The PDO and Arrival Orientations are examples of experiences provided to KGSP students that lay the foundation for their goals of contributing to the advancement of Saudi Arabia.

At the PDO event kick-off, students received welcome addresses from KGSP Director Jeff Mervosh, KAUST Innovation Interim Vice President Ian Campbell, and Undergraduate Advising Manager Meghan Perry Powell. Following weeks of virtual Onboarding-led sessions prior to the event, at PDO students attended informative sessions and workshops that capped their onboarding experience before their travel to the US. Sessions highlighted the expectations of the KGSP and student responsibilities, and built excitement around the program, as students were introduced to the multitude of resources and opportunities available to them.

PDO included presentations from KAUST faculty members and researchers who participated in the KAUST Climate and Livability Panel where they discussed KAUST initiatives and priorities. In addition, students had the opportunity to interact with faculty members at the Degree Program Fair where they learned about the different graduate programs at the University. Overall, faculty participation at PDO provided Cohort 15 with insight into what studies and research at renowned facilities on KAUST’s campus could look like.

Image 2: Cohort 15 students recreating photos from Professor Michael Berumen’s book.

Over the course of the three-day event, Peer Support Guides (PSGs) led several fun and interactive team-building activities like “Get to Know You” and icebreaker games designed to foster networking and support amongst each other, and managed discussions that stressed the importance of utilizing the resources available to students. The 11 PSGs, all selected to serve as program ambassadors, shared their experiences and perspectives as current students of the KGSP. PSGs offered advice on navigating not only the program, but also the new communities that Cohort 15 will join and create at their home universities in the US. Other activities included a challenge where students recreated photos from Professor Michael Berumen’s new book on the Red Sea out of Post-It Notes, an exercise that exemplified the collaborative efforts required to create innovative work. Professor Berumen later gave a presentation on the Red Sea Research Center, during which he commended Cohort 15 on their creativity. Finally, the College Fair for Foundation Year students was organized to introduce them to the college application process, the various universities they may apply to, and to emphasize the support provided by the KGSP through the application process in the US.

Omar Al Amer, a freshman at Pennsylvania State University (PSU) majoring in Mechanical Engineering said, “The KGSP Pre-Departure Orientation offered an early opportunity to connect with my PSU peers, laying the [foundation] for a strong community before even stepping on campus.” Mohammed Fidah, a freshman and Mechanical Engineering major also attending PSU described the PDO as a memorable event. “I was able to network with so many people… and I got an idea of what to expect [in the US] and what sort of support I will receive.”

Image 3: KSIP Fair

31 current KGSP students who participated in the KAUST Summer Internship Program (KSIP) this past summer presented their research at the KSIP Fair. Cohort 15 students used this opportunity to network and establish connections with current students and to learn about the graduate level research opportunities at KAUST available to KGSP students, a remarkable example of the types of enrichment opportunities they can pursue while in the program.

Image 4: From left to right, KGSP Alumni Lead Matthew Guckenberg and alumni Murtadha Al Malallah, Ghanimah Abuhaimed, Maria Alkurdi, and Majid Almarhoumi speaking at the Reflections from Alumni session.

KGSP Alumni present at the event were featured in the Reflections from Alumni session. There, Alumni shared unique experiences and stories from their time in the KGSP, discussed their current career tracks, as well as exciting research and projects they are engaged in. Alumni represent the boundless potential that lies within and beyond the KGSP and offers a glimpse of the successes that await new program Cohorts.

Upon arrival to the US following the PDO, new students were greeted by KGSP Advisors at airports across the country. Students spent the first few days in the US participating in Arrival Orientations led by KGSP Advisors. Arrival Orientations prepare students for the successful transition to undergraduate and Foundation Year studies. As part of the orientation, Advisors held sessions on what students could expect acclimating to their local academic communities. Foundation Year (FY) orientations prepared students for what to expect during the university application process including standardized tests, application deadlines, and the general expectations of their FY institutions. Undergraduate students received advice on academic expectations of both their universities and the KGSP, and also received tips on the tools available within the program to achieve their goals. Orientations emphasized the resources available to students, including enrichment opportunities, academic and personal counseling, and recommendations for how to manage and overcome challenges in their new environments.

Image 5: KGSP Advisors Huzaifa Potia and Jessie Rosati leading Arrival Orientation at North Carolina State University for FY students of Cohort 15.

The PDO and Arrival Orientations are a major representation of the beginning of Cohort 15’s academic and personal journeys with the KGSP. Continued support from KGSP Advisors, KAUST faculty, and a supportive and collaborative student community will lay the foundation for their success in and beyond the Program. As students of the newest Cohort settle into their respective universities and take advantage of the resources at their fingertips, the KGSP looks forward to their contributions to their academic institutions, and to the advancement of Saudi Arabia.