What Does the Situation in Egypt Mean for Students Abroad?

Citizens protesting the 30-year autocratic rule of President Hosni Mubarak have brought world attention to the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities. In the wake of increasing violence, American universities are scrambling to evacuate students studying abroad in Egypt. How can students stay safe during their international studies?

By Douglas J. Fehlen

Cairo Egypt unrest political turmoil riots protest violence demonstrations students study abroad

Unrest Leads to Evacuations

When Egyptians began to protest in the streets of Cairo on January 25, few understood the magnitude of what was to occur. But fueled by anger over bureaucratic corruption and President Hosni Mubarak's despotic governance, crowds of thousands have escalated street demonstrations. The situation has become so contentious that the U.S. State Department is warning Americans to leave Egypt.

Among the estimated 50,000 U.S. citizens in the country are hundreds of college students enrolled in study abroad programs. Butler University, Middlebury College and Georgetown University are only a few of the institutions with students currently in Egypt. These and other schools sponsoring exchanges are now working with the U.S. State Department to evacuate students from the country.

Cairo Egypt unrest political turmoil riots protest violence demonstrations students study abroad

A Fluid Situation

Thus far, no American students are believed harmed by the violence affecting select areas of Egypt; program administrators have worked with U.S. and Egyptian government officials to help ensure students' safety. Shutoffs of the Internet and mobile networks have at times made it difficult for young people to get information to parents, though sponsoring institutions have been proactive in contacting affected families.

Most of the American students currently in Egypt should be evacuated from the country by week's end. Many of these young people are awaiting flights at the airport, which is being protected by the military. Others are currently staying in protected dorms in the Zamalek district as they await word from the U.S. State Department that transportation out of Egypt is ready.

Cairo Egypt unrest political turmoil riots protest violence demonstrations students study abroad

Staying Safe Abroad

The unrest in Egypt underscores an important reminder for American students studying overseas: It's important to always have your safety in mind. One essential step is to register your trip with the U.S. State Department. Enrolling with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program will provide embassy and consular staff with means by which to assist you should violence, a natural disaster or another emergency occur in your host country.

The State Department has many other recommendations for young people studying overseas. It suggests thoroughly researching the area in which you'll be staying, including checking whether there are any travel warnings or alerts for the location. It also suggests that you travel with a list of emergency numbers in case the unthinkable does occur. Visit the Students Abroad website to find more suggestions for staying safe while studying abroad.

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