The Office of International Programs announced Wednesday that it has cancelled the Georgetown 2013 Summer Program in Alexandria, Egypt, citing safety risks.
“While security concerns have generally been limited to a few locations in Egypt and foreigners have not been targeted, the unrest is expected to escalate in the near future due to fuel and food shortages,” Associate Director of Overseas Studies Lisa Gordinier wrote in an email to students enrolled in the program.
In January 2011, Georgetown students studying abroad at the American University in Cairo were evacuated following protests against then-president Hosni Mubarak. The program resumed that summer, but Derrik Sweeney (COL ’13), who was studying abroad at AUC, was arrested later that year in November for allegedly taking part in violent protests.
“We were told there was a possibility of cancellation, but I was also told that the trip usually went on no matter what and they even went the summer after the Arab Spring,” said Ross Wasserman (COL ’16), who was set to study in Alexandria this summer.
Fellow enrollee Haley Lepp (COL ’15) said that OIP claimed the cancellation was largely attributable to an increase in violence against women and in areas that had not previously seen severe unrest.
According to OIP Executive Director Katherine Bellows, the office surveys the security climates in every country where it operates.
“The criteria used in making a decision are multifaceted and include the gathering and assessment of information from many different sources including Georgetown’s own regional faculty experts,” Bellows wrote in a statement.
The program would have taken place at Alexandria University from June 5 to Aug. 15 and incorporated cultural activities, including a trip to Cairo, with intensive Arabic studies at all levels. Participants — 23 Georgetown and two non-Georgetown students — were to receive 12 credits for their studies.
Some students who had enrolled in the program say that the cancellation will throw their academic plans off course.
“This program was integral to my academic plan, as I am going abroad next year to London and will not be taking intensive Arabic classes there,” Elizabeth Cheung (SFS ’15) said. “Alexandria would have increased my chances of passing the proficiency test post-London.”
Lepp, who is considering transferring to the Walsh School of Foreign Service, said that she might have to stay in the College because her chances of achieving the SFS-mandated language proficiency will be inhibited by the cancellation.
Others expressed similar concerns about their academic futures.
“I applied because I wanted to complete Georgetown’s third level of Arabic before studying abroad at the School of Oriental and African Studies next year so that once in London, I could take fourth level Arabic classes that Georgetown does not really offer,” Simone Gannage (SFS ’15) said.
OIP has provided those enrolled in the program with information about alternatives, such as the Georgetown School of Continuing Studies’ Arabic and Persian Language Institute, which would award six credits for its intensive option.
“Had I been told two weeks ago that they were looking into cancelling the program, I would have applied for internships, other summer Arabic programs and anything else I could think of, just in case they did,” Gannage said. “Now, a lot of the deadlines have passed, leaving me with not that many options.”
Student deposits will be refunded upon request or credited for future use from their accounts.
According to Bellows, there have been no status changes as of now with any other summer or fall programs, including the fall study abroad program at the American University in Cairo. “We will monitor the events in Egypt over the next couple of months before making a decision on that program,” Bellows wrote.