November 1, 2011

New Cairo program jets to Morocco

Concerns about political unrest in Egypt have resulted in the temporary relocation of the Cairo study abroad program to Rabat, Morocco, following recommendations from the program’s faculty to directors in the Study Abroad Office.

The winter program will be moved this year mainly due to safety concerns arising from Egypt’s upcoming elections, but administrators have already said it will not affect the long-term status of the program.

“The College remains deeply committed to Cairo and Egypt more broadly, and we intend to maintain Cairo as this sequence’s permanent home,” director of the study abroad program Sarah Walter said.

Students were informed of the decision through an e-mail from Associate Dean for International Education Martha Merritt that cited a “multitude of newly significant anniversaries occurring during the course of the Civ [program]” and “the recently announced staggered schedule of elections [in Egypt] taking place throughout the winter” as reasons for the switch from Egypt to Morocco.

Although Merritt said the “probable protests” and “uncertain law and order” would be less of an issue for a short-term research trip taken by a faculty member, the nature of the Cairo study abroad program—which involves 23 college students living in the region for an academic quarter—drew concern from program faculty and the chair of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

While the Winter 2012 program will be mostly based in Rabat, students will be given opportunities to spend time in Fez and will join faculty on a trip to southern Spain. Toward the end of the trip, students will choose whether to take a week-long trip to Egypt fully funded by the College.

The students have also been given the option to switch to the Civ program in Oaxaca, Mexico. Merritt emphasized that “the change in location would not create extra student costs for travel.”

Students accepted into the program said they were not too upset by the change in locale, which they said was reasonable.

“Better safe than sorry,” said second-year Amanda Bennett, who has an interest in Middle Eastern languages. “I’m glad that they moved it to another Arabic-speaking country, though it is a bit frustrating to learn the Moroccan Arabic dialect since it is heavily influenced by French and isn’t understood in other parts of the Arabic-speaking world.”

Jackie Somogyi, a fourth-year in the College, said she was excited to be able to still spend some time in Egypt, as well as see Spain.

“I only had a vague idea of the new trip but I knew Morocco as being beautiful from my friends,” Somogyi said. “At least it’s somewhere near the Middle East, and I’m glad to still be going.”