Foreign students leave AUC

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

A large number of study abroad students left Egypt in a frenzy just days after arriving for spring 2011 semester after their governments warned them the country was unstable and possibly dangerous.

The departure decisions mainly came from the students’ home institutions or embassies rather than their own fears.

Macarena Torres, an exchange student from the US, had to leave because her parents were worried. If it were up to her, she would have gladly stayed.

“I think the media freaked out everyone in the United States. Of course there was a revolution going on, but we were perfectly fine,” Torres said.

Many of the students who traveled stayed in contact with their few Egyptian friends and ex- pressed how sad they were to leave and how anx- ious they were to come back.

“I also feel very grateful for what AUC did for all of us international students: from providing meals during the hours of curfew to facilitating transportation to the airport. I also want to thank all our orientation leaders and RA’s, they helped us so much and had to handle many responsibilities."

Amal Salah, director of the international student affairs office (ISA), said the staff did everything they could to ensure a smooth transition for the students in Cairo back to their countries.

“We supported the decisions of evacuation because they came from embassies, so we facilitated the process of departure and transport. We also supported anxious families calling on our emergency hotline,” Salah said. “We located all the students even though we were at the beginning of the semester and some hadn’t picked permanent housing choices yet, and we made sure everyone was safe.”

Statistics as to the number of study abroad students who left or stayed are not yet available. Many are still trying to return to AUC for the spring semester.

According to Ahmed Saafan, the international committee chair who personally met with new in- ternational students during orientation week, said the students left reluctantly.

On January 25, the international students enjoyed a trip to Old Cairo with the student orientation leaders and ISA. After experiencing the true Cairo lifestyle, Saafan said, the students felt sorry they had to leave.

“I think that not less than one hundred students will come back for the summer and fall semesters,” Saafan said. “They all loved Egypt because we were so nice to them, and they got to witness Egyptian hospitality and kindness.”

The few students who stayed were determined to witness the revolution and refused to leave, even after their respective embassies urged them to. Many participated in both protests and celebrations.

Ghazala Irshad, an international graduate stu- dent, went to Tahrir square almost every day, reporting and taking photos.

“My family and friends were worried, but I know I was witnessing history being created and I wanted to be a part of it,” Irshad said. “Tahrir Square was a place filled with peace, positivity and energy.”