Sunday, August 08, 2010

U.S. students opt for life lessons in Arab world

At first glance, they seem like typical American college students on their junior year abroad, swapping stories of language mishaps and cultural clashes, sharing sightseeing tips and travel deals. But these students are not studying at Oxford, the Sorbonne or an art institute in Florence. Instead, they are attending the American University in Cairo, studying Arabic, not French, and dealing with cultural, social and religious matters far more complex than those in Spain or Italy. And while their European counterparts might head to Heidelberg, Germany, for a weekend of beer drinking, these students visit places most Americans know only through news reports the West Bank, Ethiopia and even northern Iraq. No Sex and the City jaunts to Abu Dhabi for this group.

In what educators are calling the fastest growing studyabroad program, American college students are increasingly choosing to spend their traditional junior year abroad in places like Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and the UAE, wanting to experience the Arab world beyond Americas borders and viewpoints.

According to a February 2010 report from the Institute of International Education (IIE), a private non-profit group that administers the Fulbright program for the U.S. government, the number of American students studying in Arabic-speaking countries increased six-fold to 3,399 in 2007 from 562 in 2002. While that number may seem small compared with 33,000 students who headed to the U.K. in 2007 and the 13,000 who studied in China, it represents fastest growing region for study abroad in world.

Source: The Times of India, August 8, 2010

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