I thought that I’d start off this blog post by providing a bit more information about what it’s like to be a student at the PI, just in case some of you thought that we’ve not been working hard enough during our time in the UAE.
The PI was founded in 2001 by ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) as an engineering school. The formation of a school associated with an oil and gas company meant that Emiratis would not have to attend other universities across the world to pursue higher education in fields such as petroleum engineering and petroleum geophysics. The decision to promote home-grown engineers also reflects the country’s desire to increase the prestige and quality of its education. The student body hails from a wide variety of countries, including the UAE, other states around the Arabian Gulf, Egypt, Syria, India, Bangladesh, Sudan and China.
Colorado School of Mines was selected by ADNOC to help develop the curriculum at the PI. The curriculum has many similarities and several professors from Mines have had input on how classes are taught at the PI. Due to the relationship that exists between CSM and the PI, it makes sense that a student exchange program for undergraduates should exist. Until this semester, that program had not been started, thus, Cliff, Ian and I are the first Americans and the first exchange students to attend the PI.
The PI is still in its infancy when compared to most other institutions across the world, and it is pretty interesting to see how the school is forming. It’s in the process of creating school clubs, intercollegiate sports teams, intramural teams, a school song, and essentially all of the other things that come with school spirit. This also provides an opportunity for us to share some of our culture with the students here because no one does school spirit as well as American schools! Ian and I are always wearing our PI rubber wrist bands that were handed out at the start of the semester as well as getting everyone pumped up for intramurals, and I think Cliff is devising the English version of the school’s fight song.
While school spirit and student life are things that are coming with time, the school’s primary objective is obviously to educate students. I’m taking six classes this semester: Production Facilities, Well Completions and Workovers, Drilling, Natural Gas Engineering, Petroleum Project Economics, and History of the UAE.
The classes here are very small (less than 20 students), a noticeable difference from Mines. The professors engage the students often, which makes a good environment for class discussion. It’s also great to get some different worldviews on the oil and gas industry because our professors come from all over the world. Our Petroleum Project Economics professor is Emirati, but spent a considerable amount of time studying at USC (University of Southern California). He often talks about how events in the U.S. shape the global oil market, and he has an interesting perspective from having an American education and being an employee of a national oil company. It’ll be great when he covers concessions and production contracts between private companies and national oil companies because the U.S. is one of the few countries that allows private ownership of mineral rights; most global oil and gas production involves contracts with national governments.
The History of the UAE class is fascinating. Not only does our British professor have great insights on the topic, but studying what happened in the past helps explain the national character of the country today. It is also interesting to see how much influence the British had in the area due to their interest in regional stability for the East India Company. That historical influence is why English is such a common language in the UAE.
The technical classes are also going well so far, and you never know when you’ll run into an alumnus; my drilling professor, Ferda Akgun PhD ’89, earned his doctorate in petroleum engineering from Mines.
There is a student section of SPE (Society of Petroleum Engineers) at the school, and we attended one of the professional section meetings in Abu Dhabi last week. We were able to meet and talk with some employees of ADNOC’s different operating companies, a great opportunity.
Now that I’ve suitably let you all know that we’re not just playing around over here, I’ve got to complete the blog with the details of last weekend’s adventures:
Cliff and I went camping outside of Ras Al Khaimah with the adventure club last Thursday and Friday. It was in the mountainous part of the country, and while the mountains don’t quite compare to those of Colorado, the camping location was about as perfect as it could be. The temperature was just right, the campsite ground was soft and flat, the moonlight was so bright you hardly needed a flashlight, and the chance of rain was what you would expect it to be in the middle of a desert. As someone who earned his Eagle Scout award while living in England and who camped double-digit nights last summer in the temperate rainforest that is Alaska, the low chance of rain was welcome.
After doing some late night cooking of shish kebabs over the fire, we headed to bed at around 3 a.m. Friday. We then got up, broke down camp and went on a hike through a canyon. The views of the area were great, and it was nice to get out of the city for a bit. We ended the day by roasting a lamb over a fire, and enjoyed a communal meal where everyone dug in to the lamb on Lebanese bread.
Dubai was calling after my time away from the city, so Ian and I made a quick day trip over on Saturday. We went to a gadget show at Atlantis The Palm, a luxury resort on the man-made Jumeirah Palm Island, and then off to The Dubai Mall to see the world’s largest aquarium and world’s largest candy store (remember, they don’t do things by halves in the Emirates).
All in all, I think it’s hard to complain with a week of interesting classes, fun clubs, camping and a trip to Dubai.