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Future unclear for study abroad programs in Middle East

Study abroad o?ce monitors region

As unrest topples leaders and turns the political landscape of Middle Eastern and North African countries upsidedown, the future of study abroad programs in those regions rests on shaky ground.

Though the study abroad program at American University in Cairo is the only one to be suspended by the University, Bob Miles, associate dean for study abroad, said his office is closely monitoring countries other than Egypt.

“It is something we take very seriously,” Miles said. “We are constantly taking note of what is happening.”

Miles said future unrest and travel warnings from the state department could suspend other programs. But those scenarios are difficult to predict, he said, adding that two or three students’ plans to study abroad in Egypt this summer might be canceled if the warning stays in place.

“These things are very difficult to predict,” he said. “It is such a fast-moving situation.”

The University does not have programs in Libya, Bahrain or Algeria, the countries Miles said pose the most immediate threat.

Miles said he recommends that students looking to travel to the region visit Jordan if they are interested in languages and to Israel or Morocco to study culture and politics.

While the suspension forced two students who were studying in Egypt to return early, it might spur others to consider taking classes on the region at UNC, said Kevin Hewison, director of the Carolina Asia Center.

“Things happening in the Middle East will increase interest in a positive way,” he added.

Other Triangle and peer universities are also keeping a watchful eye on the region for their own study abroad programming.

N.C. State University and Duke University did not have students in Egypt, and Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia have asked their students to return.

Two of UVa.’s students have chosen to stay in the country with their exchange program.

At the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, a peer university of UNC-CH’s, the only student to remain in the country, an Egyptian native, decided to stay with a family member.

Marina Markot, associate director of study abroad for UVa., said she is worried about the fate of certain programs.

“We are very carefully watching Jordan and Morocco,” she said.

Because of the constant changes, Miles said his department pays undivided attention to the region so it can act accordingly.

Nasser Isleem, an Arabic professor at UNC-CH, said he also tries to keep in contact with his students abroad.

He added that he is writing recommendation letters for students looking to study abroad in the Middle East in the near future.

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