January 18, 2021
Nizar Khoury first attended AIS-Salzburg in 1988 as a grade 10 student and graduated in the spring of 1991, almost 30 years ago to the day.
What are your fondest memories from your time at the Salzburg International Prepartory School (now AIS-S)?
I have so many fond memories, it’s difficult to narrow it down. The excursions were fantastic. We were given the opportunity to visit so many amazing places, like Florence, Rome, Vienna, Budapest and Zurich, just to name a few. However, the annual Venice trip was always my favorite. We had a lot of fun on the bus rides. At some point, we drove through a tunnel and everyone started making animal sounds. This became the thing to do at every tunnel thereafter. I’m sure the bus drivers loved it 😉 It was very silly, but we found it hilarious.
Aside from the trips, I have very fond memories of playing sports. I played volleyball and basketball all three years. The annual basketball jamboree, hosted by the school was a highly anticipated event. This was a two-day tournament where several visiting schools would compete for a coveted trophy (At least in my mind, it was coveted). Unfortunately, we never won the tournament during my time, but it was a lot of fun.
Lastly, I want to mention that being in a rock band and performing a concert in the student lounge was an exhilarating experience. I remember it vividly… like it was yesterday.
Photo: Florence 1990. Nizar with the letter jacket and sunglasses.
What did you enjoy about going to such a small high school?
It’s common knowledge that when attending a small school, or classroom, you get more attention and in turn, a better education. However, the true value of attending AIS-S/SIPS, is the bond. I’m sure this has been repeated several times in the previous interviews, but it’s absolutely true. The bond that I have with my fellow SIPSters is inexplicable. When I tell my friends that I’m going to Austria for a high school reunion, they are baffled. A lot of them went to a US high school with 2000 other students. Their reunion was down the street and they didn’t care to attend. With so many people in their class, they weren’t able to form the relationships that we have. At SIPS, we lived together, we ate together, we grew and developed together. To this day, we consider ourselves family. Throughout the years, we’ve had several reunions. The last one was in Salzburg in 2017. There were about 25-30 of us in attendance. Which is quite a bit, considering most of us had to travel across the world for it. The next reunion will also be in Salzburg… hopefully in the summer of 2021 (Fingers crossed). To answer the question: the things I enjoyed most about attending such as small school are the activities, the weekends, the comradery, the laughter and the relationships. Oh, and the Augustiner 😉
Photo: 2017 SIPS Reunion
What have you done academically and professionally since graduating from AIS-Salzburg?
After graduating from AIS-S/SIPS, I attended the University of Colorado in Boulder and I graduated with a degree in Environmental Design. This led me to a career in architecture, which I continued for about 15 years. Along the way, I started my own architecture outfit, where I took on small sized projects. In 2014, I changed directions and began working in the technology industry. Today I am still with the same tech company, while also continuing with my side architecture gig.
What aspects of your education at AIS-Salzburg best assisted you in further academics, your professional life, and life in general?
I can tell you what didn’t assist me in life… and that’s Mrs. Bauer’s English class, where she pounded proper grammar into the fibers of my being. It turns out, people in the real world don’t like it when you correct their grammar. They did not prepare me for this in high school. On a serious note, the education at SIPS was top notch. That is in no small part due to the expertise and dedication of the faculty. Teachers like Mr. Agardy and Mr. McLean, not only educated us, but set us on the path for success. The vast majority of my peers have actually done very well professionally and in life. On a side note, I need to find out what Mr. Agardy eats. I swear that man looks exactly the same today as he did 30 years ago.
Photo: Class of 1991 reunion in 2013 & 2017 from left to right: Liam Hulin, Ryan Smith, Nizar Khoury and Breast.
Are there any personal accomplishments since graduating that you want to share?
Shortly after high school, I was very fortunate to land a short-term contract with the US State Dept. in Saudi Arabia. After the Iraq war, thousands fled the country and were seeking asylum in the United States. Being bi-lingual, I began as a translator, but I quickly advanced to being an interviewer. This was particularly fulfilling because I was in a position to directly impact and improve the lives of very many people. I guided and coached the refugees throughout the application and approval process.
Do you have any advice for students at AIS-Salzburg or applicants to the school?
I know it’s tough for teenagers to be outside of their comfort zone, but you have a rare opportunity that very few people get. Salzburg is a magical city, so take advantage of it. Go Skiing. Go to a concert. Visit a museum. Explore the area. Check out the monastery. Have a Stiegl. Be smart, be safe, but take some risks. The bond and friendships you develop during these years will last a lifetime. At some point, you will look back on your time at AIS-Salzburg and you will be thankful for all of the experiences you gained. And you will be glad you that you didn’t squander this very special opportunity. I know I am.
Photo: Nizar in 1991 and in 2021, wearing the same letter jacket.
In closing, there is one particular memory that I would like to share and that is of the student vs. faculty basketball game of 1991. We had a good team that year, but surprisingly, very athletic supervisors and teachers. Mr. Hintzsche, the headmaster, also participated. Mr. Hintzsche and I weren’t always on the same page. Mostly because he was the headmaster and I was the student body president. In essence, it was my role to be defiant and challenging. That day, I challenged him quite a bit on the basketball court. It was a close game. In fact, it came down to the last shot. Mr. Hintzsche had the ball and was making his way down the court. This was my moment to show him what I was made of. There was no way I was going to let him score the winning shot. I was younger, faster and in much better shape. Yet somehow, he miraculously managed a quick juke-move to the right, throwing me off balance. He then jumped back and took a fade-away 3-POINT jumper. I reached up to block the ball, but it sailed over my fingertips. I didn’t look back, but the sound echoed throughout my brain… SWISH. Even though we weren’t in class, school was definitely in session.