Students hoping to study abroad in Egypt find new roads
Some will be at Penn this fall or studying in a different part of the world
September 4, 2013, 10:03 pm·
Ellen Frierson | DP
On June 28, a 21-year-old junior from Kenyon College was killed in Alexandria, Egypt while teaching English to elementary school-aged kids.
The news made one Penn student reconsider his plans for the fall. Though Alexander Goldman, an Engineering and College junior who had wanted to study abroad in Egypt did not know the student personally, the death hit home. The Kenyon student had been a friend of a friend.
Violence has been escalating in Egypt since President Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first freely elected president, was removed from power this past summer. Since then, his supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood have been protesting against the military — with violent results.
In response to the violence, schools across the country have cancelled or suspended their study abroad programs in the region. Georgetown and George Washington are a few of the universities that have cancelled.
Penn Abroad has been monitoring the situation and has not publicly announced any decision to cancel. However, the office has been working with students to make alternative plans.
This fall, the four students who had been planning to study abroad in Egypt had to consider what the violence there actually meant for them and their safety. None of them are in Egypt now.
When reflecting on her decision to not go to Egypt, Jelani Hayes, a College junior, says she has no regrets.
“I think it was the right decision for me,” she said.
Hayes, who was a reporter with The Daily Pennsylvanian, decided not to go ahead with the program in Cairo back in March, before the latest wave of violence even began.
“I guess I foresaw what was going to happen,” she said.
Hayes said the Study Abroad office worked with all four students in order to find alternatives, allowing them to apply for multiple programs so they could have backup options. She had applied to go to both Egypt and Jordan for this semester.
It wasn’t up until the day of her flight to Amman, Jordan, that she decided to return to Penn for the fall.
“It just wasn’t a risk that was necessary for me to take,” she said. Hayes did not want to have to balance schoolwork with the fear of unstable local politics or the politics in neighboring countries like Syria.
Goldman just left for London Sunday where he will pursue his mathematics and computer science majors, but he won’t be able to practice his Arabic.
“It’s a bit of a different feel,” he said, comparing his current environment in the streets of London to where he could have been studying in Cairo. “I had been hoping to experience something new and different by going to Egypt.” Goldman had been to London just last winter.
However, he is still excited to begin his adventures abroad.
“I grew up in West Philadelphia and I have never been away either alone or for more than three weeks at a time. I’m excited for my first extended stay away from home … and to have the opportunity to explore more of Europe,” he said.
For both juniors, going to Egypt has been a dream — and remains one.
“I definitely still want to go,” Hayes said, adding that she would be “more comfortable going on my own terms rather than [being] locked into a program.”
On Facebook, she still gets updates from her friends who are now abroad in the Middle East.
“I think I made the right decision for me,” she repeated, even after reading about their adventures abroad. Whenever a status update or photo from them crosses her newsfeed, she just prays that her friends stay safe.