American students studying abroad in Egypt were evacuated during protests that began on January 31st, shortly after the U.S. State Department discouraged travel to Egypt. The emergency measures went quite smoothly considering cell phone and internet service were down. However, many students were told that they would be able to return to Egypt and return to their studies there once the situation permitted, but now such a return is unlikely.
Many universities and study abroad organizations are waiting to see how the September elections progress before allowing their programs in Egypt to resume. “Mainly we would be looking for the situation to stabilize,” said Paul Watson, senior vice president of the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS). “We would evaluate with contacts on the ground in Egypt, we would consult with the state department.”
AIFS canceled the first run of a new Egyptology program for the summer of 2011. The two-part trip would have started in London, and then students would have traveled to Egypt to view ancient monuments first-hand. “We really expect that students and their families would simply back away from committing to a program that would involve travel to Egypt,” said Watson, adding that AIFS hopes to run the program the following summer, in 2012.
Students hoping to study abroad in Egypt should start to consider other options. “Nothing should be planned until the elections have been held and you’ve seen the reaction by the local community,” said Prema Samuel, the director of international programs at Sarah Lawrence College. “No one is going to put a student’s safety ahead of the program.”
Although nothing can replace the unique experience of life in Egypt, students hoping to study Arabic should consider their options in other Middle Eastern countries, such as Jordan. Students of Egyptology are also encouraged to consider London, where they would be able to take advantage of the resources at the British Museum. AIFS is also steering students interested in Islamic culture towards their program in Turkey, where students have the opportunity to study at Bogazici University outside of Istanbul for seven weeks.