Other activities included cooking classes, kayaking on the Nile and upholding the Penn State spirit, even in Egypt. Frank Miele, a third-year student majoring in psychology and minoring in Arabic, said that he and his classmates “sacrificed a night of sleep to stream the Rose Bowl from the hotel.”
The trip complements the ARAB 99/499 course taking place this spring semester. This course allows students to “discuss the experiences in Egypt and further explore Egyptian history and culture as well as Arabic,” Sennett said.
Many of these students had not been to Egypt before, so their experiences within Arab studies courses prepared them well for this experience.
“I had no prior knowledge or advice from family members about going to Cairo, so it was relieving to learn about cultural differences before the trip,” said Caitlin Maggs, a third-year student majoring in English and minoring in Arabic.
Maggs said her classes within the Arabic program prepared her for the change to Egyptian culture.
“I remember learning about professions and dynamics that differ in Egypt compared to the United States. In Egypt, it’s common for people to initially go to a pharmacist for help if they’re sick rather than speaking to a doctor or nurse, which is more typical in the United States,” she said. “I experienced this first-hand since I was unwell at the start of the trip. Professor Aly and I spoke to a pharmacist who recommended medications for me.”
While Egyptian culture was the primary focus of the trip, the Arabic language was also incredibly important to study and learn while in Cairo.
“Although Egyptian Arabic is a different dialect than Modern Standard Arabic, which we learn in class, there are plenty of basic words and phrases that are the same or similar,” said Katie Mussett, a third-year student double majoring in political science and global and international studies and triple minoring in Arabic, Spanish and philosophy. “During the trip, we did our best to learn and use a lot of Egyptian phrases, as well as understand the basics of the dialect. Most importantly, we were able to talk with native speakers in everyday situations.”