As pro-democracy protests tear across the Middle East, the University is still accepting study abroad applications from students who want to travel to the region this fall.
The Office for Study Abroad is approaching the March deadline for fall study abroad applications with cautious optimism, while students who want to study in the Middle East are embracing the prospect of experiencing the tides of social change.
Study abroad advisers are recommending that students applying to programs in countries like Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates choose two back-up locations in case the protests intensify.
“We will assess safety based on information provided by such resources as the U.S. Department of State, our International SOS insurance company and others,” University spokeswoman Jill Sankey said in an e-mail.
The swell of discontent in the region brought down authoritarian regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, and cut study abroad experiences short for students studying in the region this spring.
Fourteen GW students studying in Cairo were evacuated 2 weeks ago when violence escalated in the buildup to President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. They have since moved to other programs in the region or have returned home.
Similarly, a short-term study abroad class at the University examining marketing and consumer behavior in the Middle East was slated to travel to Tunisia in March, but professors and the University decided to cancel the trip once turbulence engulfed the country in January.
“We started thinking about back-up plans for the course because students have already committed and need the credit hours in order to graduate in the summer,” professor Salah Hassan said. “We thought that if the situation gets worse in Tunisia, where else will we go? Believe it or not, our back-up plan was Egypt.”
Hassan said the class would continue away from the protests and remain in D.C.
“Safety was our primary concern of course, so we decided to take the course experience entirely stateside,” Hassan said. “We are not compromising any of the learning. Just the correct cultural context will not be there.”
Egypt has long been a popular destination for students who want to learn Arabic and bolster their international affairs credentials. The University offers study abroad options through programs with American University in Cairo and AMIDEAST.
Sophomore Abby Casey, who sent in an application last week to study with the AMIDEAST program in Cairo in the fall, said the revolution for free elections and constitutional reform in the country has inspired her to study there, but a history of violent protests worries her parents.
“What’s going on has negatively impacted our going abroad, not because it’s making us not want to go, but because it’s making our parents apprehensive,” Casey said. “I’m glad the protests are happening, and I think it will be the coolest time to go, but my parents think I’m crazy.”