Academics take a Backseat to Culture Past Review

By (Austin College) - abroad from 09/04/2011 to 05/17/2012 with

Study Abroad in Egypt at the American University in Cairo

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
The language and culture experience made every problem with the program itself worthwhile.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I took courses at the Arabic Language Institute which is separate from undergraduate or graduate courses at AUC. Due to this, I can only comment on the rigor of the Institute. However, the courses were decently difficult. I felt that there were shortcomings in the Arabic placement of students as a class could be easily dragged down by the shortcomings or laziness of other students who were placed at too high of a level. During my two semesters, I also audited two courses in the political science department. The readings were long and arduous but the actual classroom experience was disappointing as most professors did not have control of the students. This resulted in an un-academic atmosphere where it was clear that most of the other students did not do any of the readings.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

They were friendly if not very slow and usually inefficient.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

On-campus housing should be avoided by all students who wish to have exposure to either Egyptian culture or language. It is a repressive environment that doesn't allow for very much cross-cultural interaction. I highly recommend living off-campus, even though the program will try to dissuade you.

* Food:

There is no available meal plan for students either in student housing or the typical student. On-campus food consists of American fast food and various Egyptian fast food with limited healthy extras. Off-campus, however, the entire city of Cairo provides multiple dining alternatives.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I felt very integrated into the local culture. However, I do not feel this is the norm as most students are encouraged to spend time with other foreigners or nationals of their own country from the very start, beginning with orientation. Students will have to actively resist this pressure to immerse themselves into the local culture.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

There is an available on-campus clinic but making an appointment is very difficult and they are frequently running behind schedule. Going to the clinic is usually a process that takes a few hours.

* Safety:

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

The costs depends upon the student's desires and tastes. It is very easy to eat at fancy restaurants for the equivalent of $15-$20 USD. However, street food is plentiful and can be purchased for less than $1. Housing can be expensive if one lives off-campus. Rent can average at $300 per person in an apartment though cheaper alternatives can be found if a student is willing to sacrifice amenities typical of North America.

* Was housing included in your program cost? No
* Was food included in your program cost? No
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Don't overindulge in the multitude of dining and bar opportunities in the city. Cairo living can be very affordable if done correctly. Just because it would be a great deal in the United States doesn't necessarily mean you should spend it. Great deals here and there can really add up, causing a lot of students to realize they are over-budget about half-way through the semester. Keep track of how much you spend.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Avoid spending the majority of your time with other foreigners as it impedes your ability to practice the language. Cab drivers can be your best asset as they are usually eager to help a student practice by either teaching them new words or simply encouraging the student to continue trying. Most people in Egypt can speak marginal English so it is never necessary to learn Arabic. However, your efforts in the native language are highly appreciated by locals and will go far in integrating you into the culture.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Very little, honestly, although some of the trips were nice
  • Professors in the ALI were very good
* What could be improved?
  • The rigor of academics needs to be much higher
  • Students shouldn't be grouped with other internationals as frequently
  • Greater integration between international students and locals
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Egypt is not as conservative as most websites will cause you to believe, especially on campus where most students are dressed for fashion. If you dress as the orientation booklet recommends you will quickly regret it when you see the more fashionable outfits other students wear.