Drexel student arrested at riot in Cairo
Penn Abroad adheres to U.S. Department of State travel warnings
November 28, 2011, 9:53 pm · Updated November 28, 2011, 10:26 pm·
A local student’s arrest while studying in Egypt put the potential dangers of study abroad programs in the national spotlight.
Drexel sophomore Greg Porter returned to Philadelphia on Saturday, after getting arrested in Cairo at a riot during his semester abroad.
He was studying at the American University in Cairo, where Penn also has a study-abroad program. In recent weeks, a transitional military rule has been the target of large protests and riots in Egypt.
College sophomore Nick Volpe went to school with Porter at La Salle College High School in Pennsylvania and found out about Porter’s arrest through mutual friends. The news came as a surprise to Volpe, who had not planned on studying abroad in the first place.
“My parents were justifiably shocked when they found out,” Volpe said. “I’m not sure they would have let me go abroad in the Middle East anyways.”
Penn normally suspends approval of study abroad programs in countries that the U.S. Department of State or the Center of Disease Control issues a travel warning for, according to Penn Abroad’s website.
Currently, the CDC has not issued any travel warnings, but the State Department has issued over 30 in the past year due to “long-term, protracted conditions,” that make a country “dangerous or unstable.” The list includes mostly Middle Eastern and African countries such as Iran, Syria, Iraq and Libya.
While the warning list does not include Egypt, the State Department did issue a travel alert on Nov. 7 due to “the continuing possibility of sporadic unrest,” according to the State Department’s website. However, Penn does not usually suspend approval of its programs in response to travel alerts.
Despite these warnings and alerts, not all students are deterred from studying abroad in these countries.
Nursing junior Yali Derman plans on spending the spring semester in Israel, which is currently on the travel warnings list. As the country is on the list, Derman was required to sign a waiver confirming that she understands Penn can cancel the program at any time if problems break out.
Derman discussed her abroad plans with her family, but overall said she is not concerned about safety. Rather, she is worried about the program being cancelled if anything were to occur.
“I feel completely safe there… Israel has always been a place I can call home,” she said. “They have a great defense force.”
Other students faced more opposition. College sophomore Ariel Cohen has begun planning to go to Nepal next fall, despite reservations from her parents about political unrest and living conditions. Nepal is also currently on the travel warnings list.
“My parents are definitely concerned about my safety,” she said, adding that she is working on convincing them that it’d be worthwhile.
“I still want to study there just because it would be a totally different life experience,” she said.