Suspension for Egypt Program Continued

Drew Kaplan ’20, Editor-In-Chief

Students have expressed interest in reviving study abroad in Egypt, both for general academics and for the opportunity to study in another Middle Eastern country. However, Executive Director of the Center for Global Study and Engagement Samantha Brandauer explained that, due to safety concerns in the country, the Center for Global Study and Engagement (CGSE) is “comfortable with its current suspension for safety reasons.” The program, hosted at the American University in Cairo (AUC), was suspended in 2011 following political instability in Egypt during the Arab Spring Uprisings. 

Sarah Saleh, a Fulbright Scholar Teaching Assistant for Arabic and a native of Egypt, explained that rifts between the government and protestors, and the resulting collapse of the government of Hosni Mubarak and establishment of a provisional government led to situations where police ceased “doing their job because of their loyalty to the old party,” leading to vigilante neighborhood watches to “check the entrance and exit of each neighborhood to secure the area.” Saleh added that the current political situation is “better than it was in 2011-2013, but still you can’t walk with a camera especially when there is any kind of engagement happening.”

Brandauer explained that the program at the AUC was a Dickinson College partner program which began in 2007, and was suspended in 2011 due to the Arab Spring. “Most US students were evacuated from Egypt at the start of that semester,” Brandauer said, “since that time, we have not yet lifted our program suspension,” noting that three students from the college were evacuated in the Spring 2011 semester. Brandauer continued that it is college policy not to allow students to study abroad in countries which the United States Department of State has issued a travel warning, which was done in 2011. “In 2018, the US State Department changed their system and when we reviewed it at that time, we still felt it prudent to keep the program suspended,” Brandauer added.

Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies Ed Webb added that the program was sparsely utilized before the suspension, and that the program, which predated the Middle East Studies department, was not well suited to their needs and the program “was essentially small.” Webb further explained that the primary usage of the AUC program was for students who sought to go for “heritage reasons,” and those interested in Egyptology. “As soon as we had the middle eastern studies program up and running we began to investigate study abroad programs that would support that program specifically,” Webb said. Brandauer noted that, between 2007 and 2011, 11 students from Dickinson College studied at the AUC. 

Brandauer continued that students interested in Middle East Studies are well served by current study abroad offerings in the region. “There is no major nor minor […] not being served by this suspension. It would only be for students interested in Egypt specifically.” Brandauer added that current offerings in the region, namely in Israel, Jordan, and Morocco “have not really overlapped very much” with the Egypt program. Webb added that the AUC, after moving to a new campus on the outskirts of Cairo, had become insular, limiting the interactions of students there with Egyptian locals.

Students however have expressed interest in reviving the program. Grace Ingle ’20 explained that having the program in Egypt would be beneficial as the Arabic taught at the college is influenced by the Egyptian dialect. “I think that that would be an excellent option because […] we get a lot of exposure to the Egyptian dialect. And I think that studying in Cairo is a really great option because it is a giant city and there are lots of opportunities to do things and visit really amazing places.” Ingle, who partook in a summer program at the American University in Cairo this past summer, believes the connections still exist between the college and the AUC as “we already have so many contacts and when I was there I was able to meet up with a lot of people from Dickinson [College]. I had three people from Dickinson [College] that were in Cairo that I knew.” 

Ian Barry ’20 added “it’s a great chance to go to a different country and see the sights and experience a different culture. […]I don’t know if that would be my first choice but I guess that I could give it a thought.”

Shourya Kishorepuria ’20 said that, had the program been active when he was looking at study abroad options, he “would have definitely considered it. Dickinson offers a lot of international programs for a study abroad and I don’t see any reason why they should exclude Egypt out of the various programs.” 

According to Brandauer, the International Travel and Risk Committee and CGSE at the college reviewed the Egypt program this year, but decided that they “felt comfortable with its current suspension for safety reasons.”