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SQU -- Accommodation
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Chuma



Joined: 21 May 2013
Posts: 64

PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 9:13 am    Post subject: SQU -- Accommodation Reply with quote

How is the accommodation that is offered by SQU?

Aspects I'm interested in include:

Safety
Cleanliness
Modern fixtures
Size
Proximity to campus
Furnishings

Are married employees given larger accommodation than singles? Is there any chance of getting a small house / villa or is everyone placed in apartments?

Also, is the type or level of accommodation instructors are placed in determined by rank of position? In other words, is an "Assistant Language Lecturer" placed in superior accommodation to a "Language Instructor" or "Senior Language Instructor"?

Thanks!

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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16001
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2014 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One thing that you will have difficulty finding is anyone complaining too much about the housing supplied by SQU. Families get a larger place than singles, though singles usually get two bedrooms. Housing in Oman tends to be large. There is housing on the campus, but this doesn't go to Language Center teachers any longer. I suspect that it goes to professors and top management positions. (but there are still some LC teachers who have been on campus since day one) TEFLers are always considered the bottom of a university pecking order... mere MA holders.

The faculty has grown so much that the housing is spread around the campus and none of it is all that far away. A friend of mine said that the place given was in walking distance when it is cooler, though Oman doesn't tend to be set up for walkers. Laughing This is a country that requires a car and very few try to live without one.

As to most of your questions, in Gulf terms Oman is very safe, clean, and modern. But that depends on your expectations and the luck of the draw. There is an inventory of housing and you get what is open when you arrive. You may love or hate it for reasons obvious to all or obvious only to you. Cool I always found that the key is to be nice to the housing department so that when/if you want a new sofa or mattress or cooker, they will deliver. If you dislike the location or your neighbors, you can normally put in a request to move when something else opens up. The chances of getting a villa is probably slim or none for a non professor - though if you want to pay for part of it, it might be negotiable.

VS
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Sydney2002



Joined: 10 Apr 2012
Posts: 43

PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 5:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Chuma,

I received a great deal of help and support here when I first accepted my position at SQU, so I'd like to now pay it forward, especially as TESOL Arabia has just wrapped up and TESOL Int'l is currently underway…

In my first semester here, we did have a brand new teacher quit within 2 months over the housing situation, and this person has already persuaded other prospective employees to stay away. I just wanted to offer what I hope will be a more balanced perspective on SQU housing for Language Centre teachers.

Keep in mind though that this is only my opinion based solely on my experience and my perception of the experiences of my co-workers.

On a scale of 1 - 5 ( 5 being very good, 3 being satisfactory, and 1 being 'well, duh…'), here is how I would rank the aspects you asked about:


Safety= 2

Cleanliness= 2

Modern Fixtures= 4
Many bathrooms do not have proper showers (with cubicles) or bathtubs. They are still adequate though. Water pressure can sometimes be a problem.

Size= 5
There is usually more than enough space for singles. The housing offered to families also appears to be more than adequate.

Proximity to campus= 5
I've never heard anyone complain about this and I have no complaints personally.

Furnishings= 5
We have more than we need. There is no washing machine, TV or microwave provided, but these things are easily obtained on one's own. Do not expect built-in wi-fi.

Hope this helps. I will pm you with more details to elaborate on the first two.
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16001
Location: USA

PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Most upsets about housing are caused by unrealistic expectations. Many arrive and are surprised at the differences in plumbing and kitchens. Laughing The norm in the Middle East is no shower curtain... and a drain in the floor which one squeegees the water to after finishing.

Also, in case the OP doesn't realize it... I never had housing anywhere that provided a washing machine, microwave, or TV. Places that provide "furnished" housing outside of Saudi rarely come with luxuries... just the basics.

I would disagree with your safety/cleanliness rankings. In Middle East terms, Oman is the cleanest country of all... and I found it significantly cleaner than the US to be honest. Same as to safety. The biggest danger in the Gulf is the traffic accidents.

VS
(BTW... where does one get "built-in" wifi... I've never even had that in the US. LOL)
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Sydney2002



Joined: 10 Apr 2012
Posts: 43

PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 7:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have pm'd the OP already regarding the cleanliness/safety issues related to housing only. And I agree, Oman is a mostly clean and very safe place with exception of traffic accidents. And even at that, it's a safer place to drive than any other Gulf country.

As for 'built-in wi-fi', I'd never heard of it either until I arrived in the Gulf and several teachers told me their former accommodation had it. I'm guessing it was either compound style accommodation or something akin to a hotel?

Anyhow- my rankings are only based on my personal opinion and are only related to housing. I still love SQU as an employer and am grateful to be here...
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Chuma



Joined: 21 May 2013
Posts: 64

PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 1:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for all the informative replies. They're very much appreciated. Smile
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Demigoddess



Joined: 09 Aug 2010
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 6:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Chuma,

You will find that SQU staff will have slightly different attitudes from one person to another when it comes to housing. This depends on your level of tolerance and your personal standards.

For me, housing really are unaware of their shortcomings, and when they are told about it, they see it as "moaning" and "complaining" rather than real genuine complaint about a serious issue that could determine that employees ' decision on whether to stick around or not. Therefore, I feel that the housing department, rather than the accommodation itself, have been a main cause of the premature departure of many members of staff.

It's really hit and miss what type of housing you will be allocated. It depends how much of a fight you put up before and/or after you arrive.

Sydney2002 is quite accurate about the current situation. I would like to add my ranking to the categories mentioned:

Safety= 2
Although Oman and Muscat are generally safe and I much prefer it here over my home country, yet, I have had a number of female friends that complained about the safety issues in Alkhodh. It is an isolated area away from everything and there have been a few unpleasant incident, but never dangerous enough to hit the alarm buttons. Remember, Alkhod is far away from central Muscat. We live in a project area that is still developing.

Cleanliness= 2
It's really hit and miss. You may be placed in an apartment that is rotting away, facing a graveyard, falling apart or full of arms and legs of long-dead cockroaches, while on the other hand, some people hit lucky and were placed in wonderful places. It really depends on what they have available at the time. The number of rooms is determined by your ranking as an LC teacher, although the quality of the accommodation is not. I have had cockroaches, but the landlord was helpful with exterminating them. A lot of people do not have decent landlords like mine, and housing have their priorities.

Modern Fixtures= 3
One of the flats I was placed in had an extremely small bathroom with a shower head hovering above flat floor. It is an en suit and often flooded and the water ran through to the bedroom. Water pressure is a big problem for me. Pluming in general is one of the lacking areas as all the showers I've ever used leaked and flooded. A complaint could get you nowhere, or it could get you moved into a better accommodation after a long period of flat search with a housing rep.

Size= 5
Always bigger than needed. No problems there. Families do get bigger housing. You would have to tell them before you arrive though.

Proximity to campus= 5
Unless you are placed in Azayba area(an area that a lot of people love and prefer), Alkhod is extremely close to campus, yet the traffic is very bad in the morning that it could take up to 45 minutes to reach campus.

Furnishings= 3
Basic furnishings provided, sometimes new and sometimes very old and dirty. I have seen a variety. You can ask them to bring you new curtains/sofa etc. No TV, microwave or washing machine. Their reasoning is that: "You live here, so buy it yourself". I worked in 3 universities in the ME, where I was provided with the above, but quite happy to buy my own, too.
A lot of people complain that the wardrobes smell bad because of the wood quality.

Remember, Omanis appreciate people that respect them and are polite without pointing out their shortcomings out in the open. Instead, opt for appealing to them and express your concerns. And yes, they are improving the more we point out to them our issues. They have a very large number of staff to deal with, who often arrive at the same time.

All the best,
Demi
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 3945
Location: Terra firma

PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 8:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Demigoddess wrote:
Remember, Omanis appreciate people that respect them and are polite without pointing out their shortcomings out in the open. Instead, opt for appealing to them and express your concerns.

Great advice regardless of where one works. A little diplomacy (and cultural sensitivity) goes a long way.
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16001
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 3:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

And seriously... if one is the type who freaks out at a roach... or roach part, the Middle East, and most of the world is probably not for you. They are a fact of life in apartment living in most of the world (even much of the US). If one can't deal with this... or the possibility of geckos on your ceilings, one should probably not leave one's comfort zone in one's home country.

To be honest, I never had a roach in Oman - now Kuwait and Cairo was an ongoing war - and in the UAE the landlord did keep them at bay. In Oman, if there were gardens around you, there were geckos sneaking in... through the AC units usually. They don't hurt anything and eat bugs, so I let them be. Give them names.

VS
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Sydney2002



Joined: 10 Apr 2012
Posts: 43

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 7:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've had geckos and cockroaches in my place. The landlord got right on top of the cockroaches and I believe the geckos ate whatever was leftover from the fumigation. Well… maybe not. I believe that stuff is toxic to most living creatures. My geckos were called Sandy, Sadie and Syd (after yours truly). I sometimes couldn't tell one from another.

I've never met anyone here who ran for the hills (or for the developed world) over cockroaches. Most everyone I know is fully aware that those things would survive a nuclear attack.

Anyhow- the OP's question was a good question for any new hire considering taking the university provided accommodation. The responses are honest and intended to be helpful to prospective new teachers coming here in the fall.

To anyone else reading this thread who may be considering taking a position at SQU, don't let the any negative stories about housing frighten you away, especially if you're set on Oman. Just come informed. Unless you opt for the housing allowance (which is quite low for a semi-decent place), you will be 'dealing' with the housing department and possibly under some adverse circumstances with your accommodation.

They're very nice guys and I rarely find them grumpy considering how many housing issues they have to deal with year round. However, do not expect them to share your opinion regarding what is and is not acceptable housing. They will sometimes snap their fingers, make a phone call and have your problem resolved in an hour or in the same day. And other times they will drag their feet and drive you within an inch of your sanity.

I think most teachers here would tell you to pick and choose your battles carefully regarding housing. If you can suck it up and 'just deal' with certain problems, you'll be much better off. Save the actual formal complaints for something truly problematic… something completely unbearable or dangerous rather than something that is merely annoying or uncomfortable.
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16001
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 4:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sydney2002 wrote:
And other times they will drag their feet and drive you within an inch of your sanity.

Laughing Laughing Nothing like a few years in the Middle East to enhance one's patience (and negotiating skills).

VS
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Chuma



Joined: 21 May 2013
Posts: 64

PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2014 3:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is anyone else having difficulty accessing the SQU Language Centre website, or is it just me?

http://www.squ.edu.om/tabid/5550/language/en-US/Default.aspx
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16001
Location: USA

PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2014 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It appears that the site is down...

VS
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Sydney2002



Joined: 10 Apr 2012
Posts: 43

PostPosted: Sat Jun 14, 2014 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just wanted to update this in case any new hires to SQU's Language Centre are reading this thread…

The people working in our housing dept. here, while very pleasant for the most part, have been rather notorious for attempting to charge exiting teachers for damages done to the accommodation prior to the teachers' arrival.

New teachers being taken into SQU provided apartments for the first time need to be prepared to see some damages (unless the building is literally brand new, and even then, it will not be perfect), and also DOCUMENT EVERYTHING that looks abnormal or unfinished.

Unfortunately, this means you should go over the place with a fine tooth comb and look for little blemishes such as paint chipping, fixtures not quite right, loose wires, holes, scratches, cracks… and this is all just regarding the building.

With the furniture and appliances provided, new teachers need to do the same thing. It also helps to take photos and make certain they're dated. Otherwise these people will attempt to charge you for everything when you leave. They've developed quite a reputation for doing this over the past year, and without tangible and indisputable evidence that the damage was already there, any teacher exiting or simply switching apartments is going to be completely at their mercy.

It may very well be like this everywhere in the Gulf where housing is provided and I completely understand their need to protect their property. But as the foreigner, you will have to take responsibility for being organized and keeping records of this because they will not do it for you. Fair warning…
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Opti



Joined: 18 Sep 2006
Posts: 47

PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2014 1:41 pm    Post subject: Language Center website URL & Housing opinion Reply with quote

Here's the latest website address for the Language Centre: http://www.squ.edu.om/langcenter/tabid/1008/Default.aspx

About housing: I agree with most of what Sydney2002 and Demigoddess have written. For LC teachers, housing is luck of the draw and if you have problems, it pays to be persistent and polite, rather than angry and confrontational (a few years ago, a colleague was fired after she lost her temper with housing officers and they reported her to SQU administration). I have also taught in the UAE and I think that, in general, the housing quality there is more modern, bigger and better if you work for one of the government universities or colleges. In the UAE, for example, kitchens tend to be more modern with proper countertops and modern storage cabinets above and below, and exhaust hoods above the cooker, while both my flats in Oman have had concrete countertops that are way too high, with inadequate cabinet space only underneath, tiny kitchen sinks, and no exhaust hoods. My first kitchen also had no AC, which made summer cooking very uncomfortable.

At SQU, the two biggest challenges can be, if you live off-campus, your landlord and his (her?) sense of responsibility for taking care of maintenance and repairs and traffic congestion during commutes.

If you live off-campus, most repairs are the responsibility of the landlord, after you go to the housing department and fill out a repair request form. (If the repair is needed to something supplied by SQU, such as the cooker, refrigerator, box ACs, or furniture, the SQU Maintenance Dept. is now much more responsive, though you still have to go home and stay there during working hours while they do the work.) It can take weeks and many time-consuming and annoying follow-up visits to housing to get your landlord to fix things--or fix them correctly--if he/she is negligent or absentee; whereas those teachers lucky enough to live in campus housing get their repairs done quickly and reliably by SQU campus repairmen & technicians. I am lucky because I have a good landlord, but several of my friends tell me their landlords just don't care and let their buildings fall apart, with faulty wiring, termites, leaky windows, doors and plumbing, overflowing sewage tanks, etc.

Traffic volume and congestion have increased tremendously since I moved here 8 years ago. Then, I could drive from my old flat in Al Khoud to the LC in 10 minutes, maybe 15 if there was an unusual amount of traffic. Now I have to allow one hour to make sure I'll arrive in time for an 8:00 class! It used to be that teachers living in Azaibah or Al Khuwair or other more developed areas farther from campus had the longer commute, but now, especially with the opening of the Muscat Expressway, they can reach campus in less time than many teachers who leave home at the same time in Al Khoud, Al Hail, Al Mawaleh or Mabelah. New teachers who are placed in these areas near campus are always shocked when the semester starts. If you also have to take your children to school somewhere at, say, 7 am, then you may have to really press on to get to an 8:00 class at SQU. So, it's best to be an early riser, or become one fast.


Last edited by Opti on Tue Jun 17, 2014 2:42 pm; edited 1 time in total
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