University of Wisconsin students no longer have the option to study in Egypt after the university suspended its study abroad programs in the country indefinitely for safety reasons.
After a U.S. State Department Travel Warning was issued on July 3, UW’s International Academic Program made the difficult decision to suspend its study abroad programs in Egypt for the time being, Dan Gold, IAP director, said.
UW is not alone in its decision to suspend its study abroad programs in parts of the Middle East. Georgetown University, Northwestern University and Middlebury College are among the many other American universities that made the same decision.
The Middle East is not a popular destination for the students who choose to study abroad, and only one application was completed for Alexandria, Egypt last year, Gold said.
The closing of the program is not a popular decision among all students. UW student Allison Schmidbauer, who studied abroad in Amman, Jordan and traveled to Cairo and the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt preceding the latest protests, said the closing of these programs saddens her.
“I am so grateful for my vast experiences yet am troubled that, at least for the time being, future Badgers won’t be able to experience the magic of Cairo and Egypt as a whole because of the suspension of study abroad programs,” Schmidbauer said.
Gold said safety concerns are the primary reason for the indefinite suspension of the Egypt programs, but the ability to focus on academia also plays a significant role in the choice to close the certain study abroad programs.
“As student safety is our first priority, we try to locate appropriate destinations where specific learning objectives can be met while student safety standards are also met,” Gold said.
The closing of the study abroad programs in Egypt has led to the opening of different programs in other areas in the Middle East. For the winter session of 2013-2014, Jerusalem was recently added to the new program list, Gold said.
UW student Tony Trenzeluk studied at the University of Jordan in Amman, Jordan this past spring. Life in the Middle East was a “controlled chaos,” but Trenzeluk said he never felt more safe than he did in Jordan. He added he felt even safer there than he did spending his summer in Washington D.C.
However, Trenzeluk agreed with UW closing down select programs deemed dangerous in the Middle East. The situation in Egypt is too uncertain for the government to guarantee the safety of American students, Trenzeluk said.
However, Trenzeluk added it is a “tragedy” the American students will be unable to study a region, culture and people he believes are misunderstood. The spectrum of study abroad programs suffers greatly due to the closing of certain programs in the Middle East, he added.
“I know that if more students were able to deviate away from the ‘traditional’ study abroad programs to really learn about a society so different from our own that we can move beyond those differences to positively impact our world,” Trenzeluk said.