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Studying abroad expands horizons, mind

Stutzman is a sophomore law, politics and society major and can be reached at mikhala.stutzman@drake.edu

Standing at the Egypt kiosk at the Study Abroad fair in Olmsted, I noticed lots of students hustling through, peering out of the corner of their eyes at the myriad of study abroad destinations. At this time last year, I was doing the exact same thing. Studying abroad was something I had always wanted to do, but the idea of preparing to study in another country and leaving home for such a long time terrified me. I was skeptical of how the programs worked; what would I get from spending my precious college student money on airfare to an unknown country?

However, one day I was walking through Meredith and saw a poster for a summer study abroad trip to Egypt. This was exactly what I had been looking for! I wouldn’t have to miss an entire semester at Drake University, I would receive six credits for a three-week program and its destination was exotic and packed with ancient history! A few weeks after applying for this amazing opportunity, I was accepted into the program and our group of over 35 students began our preparation to study politics and history in Egypt.

During my study abroad experience, I learned valuable information about the culture and political dynamics of Egypt that I couldn’t have received from a textbook or documentary. The program was led by politics professor Mahmoud Hamad.

While in Egypt, we traveled to all of the famous tourist destinations such as the Great Pyramids and the Valley of the Kings. When we weren’t traveling to a new city or sightseeing, our group met with important political leaders. Our group was present in Egypt during their first democratic election ever only a year after their political revolution. We were able to meet with the leaders of the second largest political party in Egypt, various revolutionaries who were instrumental in bringing about political change and sociological researchers who have been tracking the effects of the changing political dynamics.

Traveling with us was an Egyptologist who answered all of our questions about Egyptian history and guided us through the various ancient sights. We also were accompanied by an Egyptian Supreme Court judge who brought stimulating information to all of our lectures and discussions. Words cannot describe how beneficial all of these experiences abroad were to me. I am a law, politics and society major, and the immersion into international politics cultivated my interest in international law. Chatting one-on-one with a judge who oversaw the first democratic election Egypt has ever had was so much more interesting and rewarding than simply taking a class on democratic elections back at Drake.

Thanks to my wonderful experience studying abroad, I was selected to travel back to Egypt this fall as part of the Model Arab League. This program is essentially a mock council in which college students compete against each other to pass resolutions and diplomatically resolve disputes. The knowledge of Egyptian politics I gained through studying abroad has sufficiently prepared me for a more extensive analysis of Egypt’s role in the international realm. Studying abroad has opened doors that I never would have been able to access before and has ignited in me a passion for international law I did not even consider prior to my travels.

In my opinion, there are no negative aspects of studying abroad. It opened my eyes to a culture so very different from my own; I gained respect for those whose ideals were different and found many whose values and beliefs were more similar to mine than I had expected. Having these experiences abroad and tangibly benefitting from them will be an enormous asset to me when I am looking for a job after graduation. I am certain the things I learned and the experiences I was so fortunate to have will place me one notch above the rest in the real world. If you are on the fence about studying abroad like I was, take the leap of faith and do it. It is the best decision I have made to improve my college experience so far and would do it all again in a heartbeat.


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