Frequently Asked Questions
Prospective EFL/ESL instructors interested in working at INTERLINK International Institutes at Al Yamamah University often have similar questions, so we have answered some of the most commonly asked questions below. Click the questions to view the answers. Please contact us for further information or view our available positions.
With separate campuses for men and women in Riyadh, and a third campus to open August 2022 on the East Coast of Saudi Arabia, Al Yamamah University (YU) offers undergraduate degrees in Business Administration, Architecture & Engineering, and Law. In addition to the Executive Master’s of Business Administration program, YU offers Master’s programs in Business Administration, Human Resources Management, Management Information Systems, and Business Law. English being the medium of instruction, INTERLINK at Al Yamamah provides an intensive English language program during the foundation year to prepare students for their academic studies at the University. INTERLINK at Al Yamamah’s other constituencies are: academically bound students; businesses and government agencies whose personnel need tailored, short-term programs for special purposes; K-12 schools needing teacher trainers; and individuals in the larger community wishing to improve their English language skills for personal, professional, and study abroad purposes. The INTERLINK-Al Yamamah partnership is also aimed at increasing international understanding and awareness as well as facilitating educational exchanges between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and North America.
INTERLINK and Al Yamamah University have shared values and educational philosophies. They believe in the learner-centered approach that employs an innovative, experiential and project-based curriculum to help students reach their learning goals. As a result, both institutions have been growing steadily as they have been recognized for their quality of instruction, client-focused services, customer satisfaction and focus on student success.
We are part of a process of change in the Saudi educational system – one that the Saudis are initiating. We are there to help Al Yamamah University graduates improve their English for academic and professional purposes as well as help students strengthen their academic, cultural awareness and critical thinking skills in preparation for seeking further studies and/or employment. This requires teachers to work collaboratively and cooperatively to reinforce each other’s efforts, to utilize relevant language, to make needed additions to, or adjustments in, our curriculum, and to lead students gently but firmly toward the ownership of responsibility for learning. The onus is on us to enable students to be successful.
Offered currently in two colleges of Women and Men and soon in YU’s new campus in Khobar, it is a four-semester program that INTERLINK and Al Yamamah University jointly manage. The program consists of eight levels: three Pre-Orientation levels (CELP 1 to 3), which are beginner levels; and the Orientation levels (ORN 1 to ORN 5) that are the five intermediate and advanced levels. Each level consists of a Reading/Writing class and a Communications class. At entry, students are screened for proficiency and placed in one of the eight levels.
Students are a majority of young Saudis (18 – 25 years old) who have recently graduated from high school. However, there are some international students and students from a wide range of age groups.
Students are generally very respectful especially of parents and teachers, but often lack experience with completing assignments done on time. Managing time is a challenge for them which means sometimes students try to negotiate deadlines and/or important projects.
Most young Saudis use their mobile phones and tablets profusely as they are up-to-date with the latest social media apps and programs (such as Instagram, Snapchat, etc.). Students also love video games such as PlayStation, Wii, etc. and they also like to surf the Internet. Cinemas and theaters are now opening, and live concerts are also gaining popularity among young Saudis. Many Saudis now enjoy the activities arranged by Riyadh Season, the General Entertainment Authority, which hosts around 500 events, covering everything from music and arts to food and sport and lasts for 5 months.
Some Saudis spend most of their time either at home or in restaurants with their families and friends. Many Saudis also travel quite frequently to a variety of international locations. Football (soccer) is a major interest. Many men attend events at the King Fahad Stadium as they are proud supporters of their local and national teams.
This varies as is the case in any institution in any country. Our role is to increase their skill and confidence for academic studies and work. We help them using written and spoken communication scenarios, in and out of class, which provides them with the opportunities to practice and develop these skills and confidence. Some can already be charming and friendly in English, but it is important to help them add substance to style.
Yes, such interactions are highly encouraged since they will be in English. However, as with any interaction between students and instructors, it is necessary that the relationship remains formal and that we are mindful of situations that might involve cultural misinterpretations or misunderstandings. A good rule of thumb is to keep interactions on campus and to stay away from accepting gifts above SAR 100.
Students studied English for at least six years in their general education at government schools and eight or more if they come from private and/or international schools. That said, actual proficiency varies, and while some would place in ORN 1 and 2 or higher, a larger majority have very basic skills at best and would place in CELP 1, 2, or 3. Orally, some students can talk somewhat fluently while others are true beginners. Most have very limited reading and writing skills and sometimes critical thinking skills.
Many students are motivated to study English, since they want to study via the English language or are on scholarship. Generally, in either case, students are products of a rote-learning system. INTERLINK’s mission involves development of critical thinking skills and instilling learner responsibility among students who have had limited experience with these concepts. Thus, the instructors are expected to assist students as much with motivation, time management, and learning strategies as with the language itself.
The biggest challenge lies in taking students who have been trained in a highly authoritarian school system (where memorization and examinations are all-important) and inculcating a new approach to learning. We want our students to become critical thinkers, take responsibility, to be independent, autonomous learners, and to get used to group work, with regular, continuous assessment. It is a continuing challenge to get them to truly understand how a system alien to them will be much better for them than what they are used to.
The Teaching Context
The weekly number of class contact hours is 20-22 hours plus office hours (one hour daily). This consists of two, two-hour class sessions (one for Reading/Writing, the other for Communication or Listening/ Speaking).
Typically, you will find 15 to 20 students per class.
Working hours begin at 8:00 am and end at 4:00 pm, with a one-hour lunch break (during noon prayer time). From 8:30 to 10:30 all students at all levels take the Reading/Writing class. Communication class is from 1:30 to 3:30. Many Orientation students take academic subjects in conjunction with English. The specific schedule for academic classes may vary: it may start later in the day—perhaps even in the afternoon.
For INTERLINK, a curriculum is not a set of textbooks or materials, a sequence of grammar points, etc. It is instead ideas and guidance about teaching approach/methodology and a set of expected ability/skills outcomes (benchmarks) that a teacher is responsible for helping students to achieve and demonstrate by the end of the course. Teachers are not responsible for “covering material”; they are responsible for helping students develop and demonstrate specified language abilities for the levels they are teaching. In INTERLINK classes, to as great an extent as possible, materials are generated by the students themselves, with guidance from the teacher, to assure the relevance of content to the benchmarks and the active engagement of students in the learning process. The Curriculum Description and Instructional Guidelines, as well as the Benchmark and Objectives documents provide copious information and ideas.
In addition to pedagogical principles and learning objectives, the curriculum contains suggestions and ideas for class activities. The teacher has considerable latitude to use this framework to devise activities and classroom dynamics that suit his/her own benchmark-focused objectives and the needs/interests of the students. At the same time, through collaborative work, teachers will need to assure that the quality and amount of work in the Reading/Writing and Communication level/class are complementary to each other. Teachers of the same level across sections and campuses meet regularly and are expected to follow guidelines to ensure fairness for students in expectations about assignments and assessment. Ongoing curriculum discussions will allow curricular improvement and enable us to learn from one another’s experiences. While some traditional resources in the form of commercial textbooks, audio, and video resources have been compiled over the years and are made available to teachers as resources, and in line with student-centered approaches, the focus remains on using student-produced materials as resources and not relying on commercial textbooks for learning. The materials selected for a certain course are governed by the course objectives, learner’s linguistic needs and interests, and the purpose of the tasks for which the materials are selected. Those who are not willing to change to and buy into a different – albeit not new — philosophy of teaching/learning, are not suited for the INTERLINK students or programs.
The student, rather than the teacher, must be the active principal in the learning process, responsible for transforming information, discovering the language, and constructing hypotheses regarding language use. The teacher uses techniques which foster motivation, encourage student involvement, minimize obstacles to learning, promote independent learning, and aid in the development of critical thinking skills. Lesson content is a means to an end, not the end itself, and language is utilized as a tool rather than the actual subject of study. Class activities focus on using language for communicative purposes rather than learning about the elements of language (vocabulary, syntax) for their own sake. For example, students might have as an assignment to interview one or several persons they know about a topic. A class might then work on determining questions that they would ask (this would involve reflection on form/grammar, context, etc. by students, prompted in part by teacher questions), then doing interviews which they record with their mobile phones or another recording device, before reporting on the interview, listening to other students’ interviews, etc. and perhaps then doing a second round, or other spin-off activities.
We believe that the best resources are the students themselves and we discourage lockstep use of textbooks, decontextualized worksheets, and photocopied exercises from textbooks and workbooks. To the degree possible, we believe that many lessons can start from students’ own experience and knowledge, and from sufficient numbers of different examples from which students can form hypotheses and discover language functions and nexus. The success of the learning process greatly depends on the teacher’s creative ability to set up communicative situations (oral and written), elicit language from students, and devise (and eventually enable students to devise) activities based on what students produce or provide. Online resources are useful, and much of what we prepare initially will eventually be modified by you or in response to your creations or experiences, in conjunction with your Instructional Coordinator, as we determine more specifically what generic skills students’ need for their future jobs.
It is important for students to develop the ability to create the questions, topics, etc. which serve as the basis for work on language, and what they create can be the basis of group and individual response, rather than canned exercises.
The curriculum sets outcome objectives/benchmarks for students, in terms of “student demonstrates ability to ______”. The list of target outcomes for each level/group will serve as the starting point for determining how teachers or administrators will know/determine that a student has met all or some of the objectives. Much of the assessment approach, for both oral and written production, centers around portfolio collection and evaluation. A student’s collected output, over time, tells the story, so the teacher’s focus is on making sure that a student has many opportunities each week to produce language, and that there is a steady flow back from the teacher of individualized, constructive feedback that points the student toward the areas he needs to focus on and specific suggested actions to take to make progress toward the benchmark abilities. Teachers produce written mid-term reports in Week 4 of the term in which they evaluate and comment on progress. and a final report at the end of each-week term, summarizing the student’s proficiency level at the exit point of the level.
Because this group of students can benefit from more structure, the program uses the university-provided Moodle-based Learning Management System (LMS) to make sure that assignments, feedback, assessment, blogs, discussion groups, etc. are all organized in ways that enable students and teachers to keep track of performance, instructions, etc. Teachers are also encouraged to explore other features/uses of LMS for assignment reminders, sharing materials, and giving individualized feedback, and following up on students’ progress. This means that teachers need to become familiar with this (training modules are provided to train teachers in the use of technology) then enable students to use it—from students’ own computers or personal devices.
Al Yamamah University classrooms have projectors and internet connections, and some classrooms are equipped with smart boards. You will need to ensure you have your own laptop, speakers (and connectors) that work for use in the classroom.
Program instructors have their own offices on campus. In most if not all cases, these are located in partitioned areas.
As with classrooms, teachers have access to the Internet on campus, and an IT department is in place to provide the technical support needed on campus. Also, an INTERLINK email address will be provided to each teacher to use for all work-related communications.
Instructors have access to printers and copying machines (though, as indicated above, the role of the copying machine is not to enable reversion to traditional present and explain teaching), library, resource room, gymnasium, food court, and lunchroom.
As with all societies, Saudi society is governed by its own rules: social, religious, and governmental. Overall, life in Saudi Arabia is guided by the rules which prescribe that we are modest in dress, behavior, and conduct. An employee does not meet expectations if s/he goes to campus inappropriately attired in wrinkled, worn-out, and/or dirty clothes, blue jeans, tennis shoes/sneakers/trainers/sandals, T-shirt, or if their “appropriate” clothes are worn sloppily, or if a man comes in a thobe or a woman teaches in an abaya. If we want to be transformative (and we do), then we have to “walk the talk” and demonstrate in our own “presentation of self” the respect we accord and want to be accorded, and the respect for self and others that is a part of effective companies and organizations. (See examples below of unacceptable dress for the workplace and classroom).
When in public, modest attire for men and women is suggested. For colleagues not to attract unnecessary attention in public, we suggest that women wear long skirts and men not wear shorts in public. For on-campus, formal dress for men and women is required. See pictures below for inappropriate attire.
Inappropriate dress for men:
The Abaya, head scarf, and professional attire for men and women:
Arrival & Accommodations
We aim to have new instructors join us for the beginning of the new academic year, preferably before the 2-3 weeks before the start of the semester to participate in a series of workshops –called Training and Orientation (T&O) on different aspects of the program/curriculum, life and work in Riyadh before they integrate their classes. Prior to arrival in the country, new faculty will also receive online training and orientation. Instructors hired at other times of the year will be assigned a reporting date as contracts are signed, visa process permitting, and are given a T&O on the go based on the specific schedule assigned to the instructor upon arrival. While the training is mainly under the supervision of the specific teacher’s Instructional Coordinator, some sessions are facilitated by other management members as well.
The INTERLINK faculty and staff live in the Al Yamamah Yamami Residence or similar accommodation provided by the university.These are comfortable accommodations for single and married staff. The accommodations are two-bedroom apartments in university-provided compounds. The housing policy is as follows:
No. Any activity for additional remuneration is strictly forbidden by Saudi law and by INTERLINK/Al Yamamah policy. Those not obeying the policies of INTERLINK and Al Yamamah or the rules and regulations of the country will be subject to immediate deportation and loss of contract.
When a grievance arises, the instructor first tries to address it with his/her Assistant Director. If this fails, he then submits a description of the issue in writing to the INTERLINK at Al Yamamah General Director. Only if that office is unable to provide a satisfactory resolution is the INTERLINK office in the U.S. brought in, as a final arbiter.
A work visa is the standard visa for instructors.
Saudi embassies abroad differ in their requirements for granting work visas. Please visit the webpage of the Saudi embassy in your country for the most current requirements:
You should start your visa preparation immediately after you have been accepted for the post. Since each embassy has a different set of requirements for issuing visas, please read the requirements for your specific region on the appropriate embassy’s website. Some embassies require electronic applications prior to paper submissions of documents. Knowing the specific requirements of the embassy that might be granting you a visa is essential in this process and will save us all much time, energy and resources.
When it is possible—either before you come, or, more likely, at a break when there is enough time for the process, the INTERLINK/Al Yamamah office in Riyadh will provide you with three documents:
(Please note that some Saudi embassies websites are not updated and contain old information requiring such information as the company’s registration document, or a letter stamped by the chamber of commerce and MOFA, etc. Those requirements were waived after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs implemented the Enjaz visa system, which allows authorized agents to input all the necessary information in the system.)
There is little uniformity in regulations, procedures or practices of the different Saudi embassies around the world. Some require credential evaluation while others don’t; some require detailed medical examinations while others require only that their forms be filled out by a medical doctor. However, in general, the documents that you should submit with the documents we send you are:
Note regarding COVID-19 in Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia requires people entering the country to provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test result in addition to a certificate showing 2-shots of the COVID vaccine taken prior to entry to the country. These documents might be required as part of your medical test or separately. Additionally, once you have received your visa, you will be required to register your vaccine certificates on a government website. Since the government keeps updating its COVID-related entry requirements, you should communicate with the INTERLINK/Al Yamamah HR office or your visa agent to know what documents to provide and when. Please remember to check on COVID entry requirements as soon as you start the visa process so that you have enough time to complete such requirements.
You will be issued a residence card (Iqama), which will be processed by the INTERLINK/Al Yamamah HR office. You will need to do a quick medical test as a requirement for the Iqama. You should carry your Iqama with you all the time. Now, there is a government-sponsored application, which you can download on your phone to have a digital copy of your Iqama.
You need to have a Saudi driver’s license to be allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. But your country’s driver’s license will save you time when you apply for a Saudi one. You will need to have your Iqama issued prior to applying for a driver’s license.
Your monthly pay will be transferred to a Saudi bank account. As soon as you have your Iqama, you should be able to open a bank account in any local bank.
INTERLINK/Al Yamamah faculty will receive medical insurance that is widely accepted in a large network of hospitals and clinics. The health insurance plan covers regular visits to physicians, dentists and to the eye doctors. It is important to read the insurance policy to know what it covers and the health institutions and services covered by the insurance.