Despite turmoil in Egypt, University of Wisconsin experts said demand for study abroad programs in the region is not predicted to decline.

Late last month, six UW students studying abroad in Egypt’s second largest city, Alexandria, were evacuated because of increasingly violent protests in Cairo.

Two students slated to study in Cairo had their trips to the country canceled, and the study abroad program in Egypt was indefinitely suspended.

UW does not expect future study abroad programs in Egypt to be negatively affected by the recent protests against the government, UW spokesperson John Lucas said.

“UW students are studying all over the world and are very interested in studying abroad in greater numbers,” he said. “So the suspension of programs in Egypt is not expected to negatively affect our future study abroad programs.”

UW Dean of the Division of International Studies Gilles Bousquet said students are very interested in the current political and social situation in Egypt, and programs in the region will definitely not lose future student interest.

Bousquet said after the terrorists attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, there was an increase in UW students interested in study abroad programs in the Middle East, and the interest students have in that region has not since declined.

“This is an historic time for Egypt, and students are always interested in traveling to regions like this when history unfolds,” Bousquet said.

The increase in interest in the Middle East has not only been a trend at UW, but a national trend as well.

The Modern Language Association reported a growing number of American college students are studying the Arabic language, according to a report done by the Institution of International Education.

Between 2002 and 2007, the number of American students enrolled in an Arabic language program at an institution of higher education increased by 127 percent, the report said.

Bousquet said the national increase in interest in the language and culture has been correlated with increasing interest for study abroad programs in Arabic-speaking countries.

The number of American students studying abroad in an Arabic-speaking countries increased by 43 percent between the years 2004 and 2007, the report said.

According to 2010 data from IIE, there are currently 2,271 American students studying abroad in Egypt. The amount of students studying in Egypt this year increased by 18.6 percent from last year.

Lucas said the university cannot determine exactly how the protests in Egypt will affect the study abroad program and the future of students studying in the country. 

However, a program’s suspension does not always mandate an end to UW’s presence in a particular country, Lucas added.

A program at Hebrew University in Jerusalem that was previously suspended due to political and social turmoil in the country has since been reinstated and is just as popular as before, he said.

“Whatever the resolution of the current situation in Egypt, it is unlikely that any study abroad programs in Egypt will resume this semester,” Lucas said. “However, we will be monitoring the situation and consider what the state department is advising and what other universities are deciding.”