Egypt Explored as Study Abroad Opportunity
PRINCESS ANNE, MD - The teacher became the student this summer when Dr. Susan Cooledge, who teaches French and ESL courses at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, ventured to Egypt for an intensive course in Arabic and to explore study abroad possibilities for students. Supported by a grant from the UMES Center for International Education, the goal is to enhance localization of the curriculum.
Cooledge's completion of the new Arabic course offered at UMES in the spring semester was the catalyst for the trip. "After studying for a semester, I was enthusiastic about the response of students to the course. I thought to compliment that classroom instruction, a study abroad in this language would be a unique opportunity," said Cooledge. She, along with Salisbury University language professor Dr. Arlene White, currently take SU and UMES students on a joint study abroad trip to Paris, France during most winter semesters.
A newly emerging language in the academic world, UMES was the first on the Shore to offer an Arabic language course with plans to offer a subsequent course in spring 09. According to Cooledge, it is very difficult to find teachers and resources since the courses are so new. "Right now people are developing new and progressive language materials. We have to take a look and see what's out there for our students," said Cooledge.
Cooledge visited several sites to gather insight into what schools, locations and programs would be best suited for students. Her search took her to the Ahlan-Egypt language school in Alexandria, the Alexandria University's TAFL Center's Arabic Language Program (also home to Middlebury College's Arabic Language Program), the Alexandria Centre for Languages, the Ahlan-Egypt language school in Luxor and the American University in Cairo.
The first location, the Ahlam-Egypt language school in Alexandria, translated means "Welcome-Egypt." Run by an Italian-based company, the school is geared to "responsible tourism." In addition to the school, the company conducts evening activities and lectures to enhance the language lessons with cultural knowledge and experiences.
"That was what attracted me to this school, the connection to responsible tourism. The interaction with the local community is very important to them. They made sure we were experiencing local life," said Cooledge. Students stayed in accommodations within the community and visited local sites and events with the teachers as guides. They even had to opportunity to attend a wedding in a mosque.
The teachers came from all parts of Egypt and the students, during the session she attended, came from Australia, Spain, Italy and Romania. They were from all walks of life. "I found it very easy to talk to the other students and teachers. They all seemed interested to talk about their stories, their lives and their perspectives on the world and our sameness," said Cooledge.
In Luxor, a winter study abroad option, she visited the Ahlan-Egypt location there and was guided by a teacher to some of the local ancient Egyptian highlights. She toured the tombs and temples in the Valley of the Kings, including the tomb of King Tutankhamun. A favorite, which she repeated three times, was a sunset ride on a boat down the Nile.
Her last location to visit was the American University in Cairo, which recently moved from its original 1919 location in historic Cairo to a new campus. The AUC offered a variety of options for Arabic study and offered local tourist sites nearby such as the Great Pyramids and the National Museum of Egyptian Antiquities.
"I would recommend the school in Alexandria as it's well suited to study abroad. The (Mediterranean) Coast is so beautiful. Cairo is so close. The train is so inexpensive to go see the Great Pyramids and other nearby attractions," said Cooledge.
"It was a very positive experience. It (a study abroad trip) can be eye-opening and life changing," said Cooledge. "It can shape their (the students ) perspectives at this crucial time in their intellectual development and adulthood. College is a really great time for this type of experience."
Gail Stephens, assistant director, UMES Office of Public Relations, 410-651-7580, firstname.lastname@example.org.