SU officials to re-evaluate Middle East programs
CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, the number of Syracuse University students in Jordan this semester was misstated. There are six SU students in Jordan. The Daily Orange regrets this error.
Syracuse University students hoping to study abroad in certain Middle Eastern countries may need to look elsewhere.
Last September, SU made the decision to halt its study abroad programs in Tunisia, Lebanon and Egypt due to the increasingly dangerous conditions of these countries.
“The situation in Egypt has obviously gotten worse,” said Sue Shane, director of programs for SU Abroad. “I don’t believe any programs are sending students there.”
Before the Arab Spring protests two years ago, SU had a consistent group of students studying abroad in Egypt, Shane said. When the revolution broke out, Americans were asked to leave.
SU Abroad has a risk management committee that meets periodically to review the situation, Shane said. The group plans to meet again in the coming weeks to re-assess the program in Lebanon.
“The problem with Lebanon is that it’s getting quite a lot of spillover from the Syrian uprising,” Shane said. “We haven’t had anyone inquire about the program there as of recently.”
SU has several means of assessing the situation of these countries overseas, Shane said.
“We reach out to faculty who do research in some of these areas, contact several local sources and also check the latest State Department and International SOS warnings for updates,” Shane said.
When there is a clear and obvious danger to foreigners, most students will make the conscientious decision to look elsewhere for study abroad opportunities, Shane said.
In Tunisia, the environment is much more stable than in the past, but problems still flare up from time to time, said Mehrzad Boroujerdi, director of the Middle Eastern Studies Program at SU.
Countries like Jordan, Morocco and Turkey are much safer, and have become popular with students looking for the Middle Eastern experience, Boroujerdi said.
Currently, he said, SU has six students in Jordan this semester.
While some students have voiced their disappointment, Boroujerdi said there is no need for concern.
“I wouldn’t call it a major setback,” he said. “People might not get their primary country of choice, but some of these countries are undergoing turmoil and are not safe to visit.”
Boroujerdi co-teaches a summer program in Turkey called “The Road to Democracy in the Islamic World,” and said he has no reservations about taking students there this summer.
“It’s a Western-influenced country and a bridge between the East and West,” he said.
Students who go to Turkey get a different perspective, Shane said. It’s a stable country that provides students a glimpse of the rest of the Middle East.
For students unable to study abroad in the Middle East, the variety of Middle Eastern studies courses on campus provide an alternative, said Rania Habib, assistant professor of linguistics and Arabic.
The program offers a wide variety of courses in subfields like Arabic cultures, history and politics, she said.
“Students may be impacted by not being able to go to places they like to visit and explore culturally and socially,” Habib said. “A personal exposure to the culture and language the students are learning is invaluable.”
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