Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Full Year Abroad Worth Sacrifices

The word on the Georgetown hilltop is that if you go abroad you are essentially taking a six- to eight-month vacation with little work to do, a lot of time to play and hardly anything to worry about. In the language a first-grade teacher would use on her class – it is a time to grow and learn.

Grow and learn I did, but my year abroad in Egypt was not without its worries, or its hard work. With the Middle East unstable, unsettled and oftentimes violent, the Egyptians have tried to find their place amid the mess of the region. And I, at the same time, have tried to find my place amidst the Egyptians themselves.

It was easy to be swept up in the romance of the country the moment I set my foot on its soil eight months ago. I stepped out of the airport and directly into a sea of famous images – the pyramids, the pharaohs, the untiring Nile curving across rich land. I was content with these snapshots, wooed by the warm air and palm trees of the country in much the same way a woman seduces a man with her eyes.

But time and experience undid all my preconceptions of what I thought Egypt would be. People live here. Millions of people. With lives and jobs and problems. The romance was lost in the pulse of a constantly throbbing, constantly moving city.

Yes, I have to say, eight months later and fifteen pounds lighter it’s time to come home.

There is a general consensus among the one-year study abroad students who have come to Egypt that one year is definitely enough. We were all told in our orientation session in August that there would be a mid-year slump. Our incentive? We would finally start to feel at home in our new environment, filled with a greater appreciation of the culture and way of life. And for a while the situation improved – slowly we became adjusted and even happy. But none of us were prepared for the second slump that would unexpectedly greet us at the end. The roller coaster ride of living in Cairo has left many of us with mixed emotions, as if all our feelings had been put into a blender with only one working button – frappe.

Christina Westbrooks, a fellow Georgetown junior, declared her love for Egypt and the friends she made here while at the same time battling the desire to return home. “The people I’ve met, whether it be other Egyptian or international students, teachers or just the trainers in my gym have become such a part of my life. But in the end when it’s time to head back to the states, I’ll be ready to go.”

Of the study abroad students that came for only the fall semester, many were unprepared to leave and return home. Three are even coming back to the Middle East for the summer – one will work for a nonprofit organization in Lebanon and two will be teaching English in Yemen. One semester in Egypt appears to have been too short, leaving students unsatisfied, while the one-year study abroad students are feeling the strain of the conditions. But ironically, despite this faded enthusiasm about Egypt, many are grateful for having stuck out the year.

Grace Kiser, a study-abroad student from the University of Toronto, said that despite her readiness to return to the states, had she not stayed the entire year it’s possible she would have maintained only an unrealistically rosy picture of Egypt. “Having stayed and experienced life outside of student housing,” she continued, “I feel like I’ll leave with a bit of a more well-rounded perception.”

Grace’s roommate, Holly Takashima, who is studying abroad from Williams College, expressed similar sentiments. “It was definitely worth coming for the entire year,” she said. “I wasn’t ready to go home at the semester, and looking at it now, I think I needed the year to make the whole thing come round in some kind of full circle.”

Eight months. Eight months that flew by before many of us had the chance to even breathe, completing circles for some and opening doors for others. Egypt welcomed all of us in August. Ahlan wa sahlan she said. You are in your family on a ground without stumbling stones. Had I not stumbled in my stay here I would have been disappointed. Had Egypt not pushed me to my limits, had she not moved me to decide that I am ready to go home, my study abroad experience would have been what many people view as the truth of studying abroad – a waste of time.

But the country fought me the entire time and I’ll be returning home with no regrets, a sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that I put up a pretty good fight.

Yasmine Noujaim is a junior in the College and is currently studying at the American University in Cairo. She can be reached at noujaimthehoya.com. This is the last SALAMAT.

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