Over the last few weeks, as I’ve told people that I’m heading to Egypt for a semester abroad, the question I tend to get a lot is: why? Why Egypt? Why now? And to be fair, those who don’t know me have good reason to think I’m a little bit crazy. Most normal college kids head to Europe or Australia for their big semester outside the US. But I’m not a normal college kid… and this definitely isn’t my first semester outside the US.
In fact, I only just finished my third semester in America. I spent most of my life in the beautiful kingdom of Morocco (though that’s really a story for another blog) and I identify just as much with that country as I do with the US, if not more. I attended Moroccan school for most of my time there, had mostly Moroccan friends, spoke French and Arabic every day and was otherwise totally immersed in Moroccan culture. Needless to say, my return to America after graduating high school was… bumpy. Culture-shock combined with adjusting to life outside my parents’ home has made for a pretty unique start to my life as an adult, to say the least.
Anyway, I knew within three weeks of starting college at Miami University of Ohio that I had to study abroad. I had already been to most of Europe and had no real interest in Australia, so from the beginning, I was drawn to countries like South Africa, Ghana and… Egypt. I had always been fascinated by its history, the American University in Cairo was a premier school, and the more time I spent trying to adapt to American culture, the more I found myself longing to be back in a familiar cultural environment. You probably can’t fathom this, but I feel way more at ease in a Muslim, Arab society than I do in white, suburban America (a topic that will likely come up again on this blog). I knew Egypt would be similar enough to Morocco to be comforting, but far enough from home to put me outside my comfort zone. And, as an aspiring journalist watching the revolution unfold, I ached to get over there and be able to witness history with my own eyes.
So that’s why Egypt.
As for this blog, I’ve gone back and forth over whether to commit to it, since I know I’ll be busy once I get to Cairo. But I have ultimately decided to give it a go because:
1) Lots of people have asked me to. Professors, relatives, and random acquaintances who hear about my upcoming adventure have all expressed an interest in hearing all about it… So let’s hope people actually read this thing!
2) Anderson Cooper has a blog… Really, all self-respecting journalists have blogs. So, as a young journalist going to a land in the midst of a revolution, I really ought to have a blog don’t you think? Who knows what could happen next week? By the time I leave at the end of May, Egypt could very well be a totally different country. And if I’m going to be there to see it, I ought to report on it. It’s what Anderson Cooper would do, surely.
3) I have a pretty unique perspective. I know this sounds cocky, but it’s really not my intention… I just realized recently that there aren’t a whole lot of other 20-year old American girls who grew up in Morocco, speak three languages, have a solid understanding of Islam and identify pretty strongly with Arabic culture that are going to be spending a semester in Cairo in the Spring of 2013. (If you know of any though, please let me know– we’d be surefire friends). As I’ve read the New York Times, watched CNN and talked to my Egyptian friend, Amir, I’ve grown curious about whether I would see things the way that they do, were I there to experience them. I am certainly not belittling the stories told by either of these esteemed news sources, and I certainly would urge you to go to them first and foremost for updates on the region… but I encourage you to check back here too to add my perspective to the hamper, because it’s not one you’ll find anywhere else.
So there you have it. This is to be a blog from an American-Moroccan journalism and anthropology student about her semester in Cairo and all the things that happen along the way. So stay tuned and invite your friends because this is going to be an adventure…