Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Student Travel to the Middle East

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Student Travel to the Middle East

Article excerpt

Student Travel to the Middle East

At a time when politics and culture in the Middle East are badly misunderstood in the United States, it is heartening to report that many groups are traveling to the area to see it for themselves. Students from Sherwood High School in Montgomery County, Maryland, traveled to Egypt for 10 days in April, where they were the guests of students at the Cairo International School. The Sherwood School specializes in world cultures, so the excursion was a natural extension and enhancement of the students' school program.

Mrs. Mimi Hassanein, a parent volunteer in the system, facilitated the arrangements with the Egyptian hosts. This very successful trip was the second made by students in the school, and served to arouse further interest in Egyptian history and culture. The students made many friends, and will continue their friendships through phone and e-mail contact.

The students enjoyed visiting the pyramids and the Valley of the Kings in Luxor. One group of students took many photos and will be making a report soon at the high school. Students developed a new attitude toward Islam, and saw how the religion is connected to the society, according to Mrs. Hassanein. Included in the group were high school faculty and the superintendant of schools. Others interested in developing such a program in Egypt for schools in their area should contact Mrs. Hassanein at (301) 774-5388.

Summer Language Programs

A language program for students entering grades 9-12 will be offered by Northfield Mount Hermon (MA) School July 2Aug. 13 in Egypt for students wishing to learn Arabic and in Israel for students wishing to learn Hebrew. The plan for this first summer is for three hours of instruction six mornings a week, two hours of computer lab, and structured evening study sessions. In the summer of 1998, successful students may apply for phase II, a total-immersion experience at the American University in Cairo in Egypt or in Jerusalem. Included are visits to ancient historical and cultural sites and to local markets where students may hone their language skills. For further information, contact the director, Dr. Mohammed Jiyad, 82 Ripley Road, Montague, MA 01351; phone (413) 367-9423; e-mail mmjiyad@amherst.edu

College students across the United States will have the opportunity to study in Aleppo, Syria for six weeks this summer, under the auspices of the National Council on U.S.- Arab Relations. According to Professor Ron Stockton, who has escorted groups in the past and will this year be the faculty escort for the Summer in Syria program, the American students are usually astounded at how friendly the Syrian people are.

Each student has many pressing invitations to come to a Syrian home for a meal. Students are also surprised at the depth of Syrian culture. They enjoy visiting the historic mosques, churches and palaces. They also are amazed at the existence of a large and diverse Christian community, particularly in the Aleppo area. Students also hear personal stories and gain perspectives that they have never heard before, such as the Syrian view of the Golan Heights issue. The students also get a chance to meet with the former occupants of the Golan Heights, now refugees in Syria. Students found Aleppo to be an ancient and friendly city, with a large university of over 100,000 students. In the course of their study, students also visit Palmyra, the ancient city in the desert; San Simeon, where a Christian saint sat on a pillar for 40 years; the Golan area; and Damascus. In both Aleppo and Damascus, the students like to visit the souqs and practice Arabic and bargaining techniques.

According to Stockton, the college students are carefully chosen and are academically excellent. They have shown an interest in international affairs before the trip, although few of them know the Middle East in depth before they travel. In the last 10 years, there has been a delegation of at least 10 people in each group. …

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