Some American students may have thought twice about travel and study in the Middle East or North Africa when the Arab Spring began sweeping across the region in 2011. One year later, enrollments in AMIDEAST’s study abroad programs are up across the board, especially in Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco, as young Americans seek out in-region opportunities to hone Arabic language skills and improve their understanding of the region’s dynamics.
AMIDEAST’s Education Abroad summer and semester programs, which offer undergraduates credit for Arabic language study and coursework in area studies, attracted 26 students for its intensive Arabic program this summer in Morocco, while applications for its Arabic program in Jordan had to be cut off after reaching the maximum capacity of 70 accepted students. Enrollments in programs in both Morocco and Jordan are strong as the fall semester gets underway.
The uptick in interest is additionally evident in Egypt, where 14 American undergraduate students returned for spring semester, marking a resumption of the program that was suspended and its students evacuated from Cairo within days of the January 25th Revolution. And the interest continues. An Arabic language and service learning program was offered this summer, and enrollment in fall is exceeding the spring term.
That’s not the only good news. AMIDEAST was pleased to reach an agreement in principle with the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) in May. Under it, students from ACM colleges will be eligible for a new joint program planned for Jordan beginning in fall 2013.
Besides AMIDEAST Education Abroad programs, which are offered on an open-enrollment basis, AMIDEAST has for many years designed and implemented customized programs in coordination with a variety of sponsoring institutions. In Morocco alone, AMIDEAST/Rabat offered a dozen such programs this summer, enrolling some 160 students in all. Arabic language training was popular, accounting for 35 students in the U.S. Department of State-funded Critical Language Scholarships Program, and some 75 others from a variety of institutions including the Defense Language Institute, Marquette University, and the Universities of Iowa and Virginia.
AMIDEAST/Rabat also worked with several institutions to customize programs with a specific academic focus. This year it hosted students in a public health course from the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee, as well as students from the Lauder Institute of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania seeking to strengthen their Arabic and French proficiency and understanding of local business conditions in support of the dual focus of their joint MBA/master’s degree programs in area studies. It was also pleased to work with Penn State’s Engineering Leadership Development Program for the sixth consecutive year in support of a unique cross-cultural collaborative program focused on development of engineering solutions that meet local needs.
In addition to programs for college students, AMIDEAST helped implement programs in Oman, Morocco, and Jordan that expanded the horizons of nearly 75 high school students through cultural immersion, homestays, language study, and opportunities to explore special interests such as traditional Islamic arts and conflict resolution. They included 35 American teens who spent six weeks studying intensive Arabic (20 in Morocco and 15 in Oman) on scholarships awarded through the U.S. Department of State-funded National Security Language Initiative for Youth.
“Interest in studying Arabic continues to grow by leaps and bounds, as does a deeper interest in understanding Arab society and culture. The trend line began before 9/11 and has received another boost from the Arab Spring,” says Jerry Bookin-Weiner, AMIDEAST’s Director of Education Abroad. “We are delighted that so many students are able to have deep and meaningful experiences through our programs.”