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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Travel warning won’t prevent industrial engineering trip to Egypt

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Photo by Graphic by Nic Tan

The study abroad program will include an excursion for students to visit the pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx. 

A travel warning and a recent attack on a mosque in Sinai, Egypt will not prevent a group of Texas A&M students from going on their winter study abroad trip in Alexandria, an Egyptian metropolitan area west of Sinai.
Over winter break, a production systems engineering study abroad program will be led by Alaa Elwany, assistant professor in the department of industrial engineering. During the trip, students will be attending a daily lecture, learning about the local culture and participating in a philanthropic event as a ‘thank you’ to the hosting community.
This is the second year Elwany will lead the program. A week before last year’s trip, another terrorist attack occurred in Egypt. That attack did not stop the group from travelling and, according to Elwany, the recent attack in Sinai will not put a stop to this year’s trip either.
“This isolated pocket [of northern Sinai] is 400 mi. away from Alexandria and about 280 mi. away from Cairo, and so what happens there—it has been happening there for a while, unfortunately,” Elwany said. “Which isn’t a good thing, but it does not stop life from happening in Egypt, including hosting tourists.”
The instructor said in terms of the globalization of terrorism, he sees two approaches to living everyday life with the possibility of facing an attack.
“We’ve seen them happen in Boston, New York, Paris, Belgium, everywhere,” Elwany said. “Egypt is not an exception, so I see that the only options we have are to just stay in our shells and not go anywhere, or just go places and take adequate security measures and safety measures and be very conscious about it.”
Because Egyptian Arabic is the most widely understood dialect, many Arabic studies students wanting to immerse with native speakers are also attracted to studying in Egypt, according to Salah Ayari, instructional associate professor in international studies. However, Arabic studies has moved its study abroad program elsewhere because of security concerns, Ayari said.
“After being a popular destination for students of Arabic for many years, there seems to be a shifting attitude towards the country as a result of the deteriorating security situation, which has tarnished the image of the country,” Ayari said. “The travel restriction to Egypt has impacted students who want to study Arabic in that country, including some of our students.”
According to Ayari, the current summer Arabic studies program is hosted in Morocco, which is where, in addition to other countries such as Jordan, Ayari foresees future travel for students instead of Egypt.
Jane Flaherty, director of Texas A&M’s study abroad program, said traveling to a country with a travel warning is contingent on an individual basis.
“It really depends on either on the faculty member and his relationship with people within the country, whether he is a national of that country or not, or the college of the faculty member, so sometimes a college has a relationship with different universities,” Flaherty said.
In the case of the production systems engineering course program, Elwany is a native of Egypt who has ties with the Egyptian government. Flaherty said students have to request permission for travel to a country on the State Department travel warning list through the study abroad program. This request has to be finalized very early, according to Flaherty.
“We generally don’t have students do [paperwork] until we have the travel warning list,” Flaherty said. “Generally what we do is, once we know a student is going to an area that’s under a travel warning, as soon as we have all the information necessary, we submit the request.”
According to Flaherty, there is a standard letter that goes out for guardians and other family members to assuage any apprehension about a student’s travels. There are also resources including a 24/7 phone number for students to call while abroad and an insurance policy for security, health or emergency weather conditions.
“The only repatriations we’ve done so far have been related to weather and health,” Flaherty said. “We stay in close touch with either the faculty member who is leading the program, or if a student is on a transfer credit program with one of our partners abroad, they are usually very good about communicating with us if there is any incident that occurs.”

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