Advice to future students: Get an apartment in the city Past Review

By (Government & Anthropology, The College of William and Mary) for

Study Abroad in Egypt at the American University in Cairo

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Very worthwhile - I feel much more confident in my ability to handle new situations, learned more about an exciting new culture, refined my language skills, and made WONDERFUL friends who I still keep in touch with two years later. It was excellent, despite some of the programs imperfections.

Personal Information

The term and year this program took place: Fall 2008

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I think that the classes that I took were the exception to the rule - I took an Arabic class, an anthropology class taught by a visiting American professor, and two graduate classes in political science. My classes were fairly in-depth and intensive and required a substantial (25-30 pg) research paper by the end of the semester. Given that sometimes quantity was valued over quality, the classes were informative. I did feel like my two graduate classes were quite boring - the professors put very little time into creating lesson plans or facilitating good discussions. Despite my decent experience, I know many American students who felt their classes were NOT of this quality. It would be wise to look into the courses and the professors before signing up for all of your classes.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

AUC was moving its campus at the time that I studied abroad. Due to the chaos, a variety of things happened that really displeased a lot of people. A lot of people who were told that they'd get housing in dorms were later told that they had to get an apartment. The buses that were supposed to take us 45 min across the desert to get to our classes often didn't arrive on time, or at all. The food and amenities on the new campus were ridiculously overpriced, yet students were forced to buy them because there was nothing else out there in the middle of the desert at that time. The administration basically didn't respond to any of the needs of the students.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Not bad - the rooms were big. Bathrooms were shared with the entire hall. There was a gym and a cafeteria, which I appreciated.

* Food:

It was cheapier to eat in restaurants than cafeterias, so I often did that. I would also go to the grocery and get easy things to eat on the go. I felt my health was really bad while abroad b/c I was frequently sick and didn't have much variety in my diet. But, I still enjoyed the way that a lot of the food tasted. I was also a vegetarian when I arrived, and had to start eating meat again because I felt like I was getting enough nutrients.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

We had some fun cultural activities scheduled by AUC, like Sufi dancing!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Cairo definitely has a serious problem with sexual harrassment. I got verbally harrassed daily, and touched only sometimes, but it would be VERY rare to get assaulted or raped. There's definitely a line there that most people won't try to cross. Save a few unique situations, I never really felt endangered. I did get very sick a few times. RESEARCH A GOOD HOSPITAL before you let someone take you to one. I was taken to a rather unpleasant hospital b/c I didn't do my research. Also, if you are only minorly ill, you can go to any pharmacy and just ask for most medicines. You don't need a prescription for 99% of things. I actually don't even know if they write prescriptions in Egypt...

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* 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)

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Leaving there is CHEAP. I spent very little and lived very well off of it. Just use your debit card to get money out of ATMS - do NOT use traveler's checks. I couldn't get mine cashed for the life of me, it is VERY difficult when everyone just uses plastic.


How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
Language acquisition improvement?

I became much more comfortable with speaking and listening, whereas before I mainly focused on reading and writing.

Direct Enrollment/Exchange

* Did you study abroad through an exchange program or did you directly enroll in the foreign university? Direct Enrollment

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? You can certainly have a lot of fun in Egypt - my #1 piece of advice is do NOT live in the dorms on the new campus. You'll be stuck in the desert with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Get an apartment in the city and just take the 30-45 min bus ride to campus every day. It's worth it to go through the bus ride, so you can have Cairo at your fingertips on the nights and weekends.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Anthropology of Film

Course Department: ANTH
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Very good, very informative.
Credit Transfer Issues: No issues - transferred in as an independent study in anthropology.
Course Name/Rating:

Politics of Protest

Course Department: Political Science graduate course
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Very reading intensive. The classes were a let down - the professor basically assigned a person the job of reading and summarizing the article in front of the class. Very boring - the structure could have been much better. The material itself was interesting.
Credit Transfer Issues: No - transferred in as an independent study in government.
Course Name/Rating:

Human Rights in the Arab World

Course Department: Political Science graduate course
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Too simple - the readings were basic and the lectures were lacking. It didn't feel like the professor put any work into making it interesting, which is a shame b/c it had potential. I wouldn't recommend it.
Credit Transfer Issues: No - transferred in as an independent study in government.
Course Name/Rating:

Arabic 201

Course Department:
Instructor: Abeer
Instruction Language: Arabic
Comments: This course was very good. The professor spoke only in Arabic and really snapped everyone into shape. The expectations were high, so I pushed myself.
Credit Transfer Issues: No - transferred in as Arabic 201.