It was seventy five degrees in Cairo the other day, and I was freezing cold. It’s sixty six degrees now, and I’m sitting in my lovely living room using a (borrowed) internet connection, wearing long sleeves and a light jacket zipped up to my chin. This is perhaps going to be a huge problem in January when I return to 30 degree weather and the possibility of snow. Which, I guess, brings me to my next point.

As most of my family and friends likely already know, my plans have changed. I will not be staying at the American University in Cairo for a second semester. My frustration with the administration and my dislike of the new campus notwithstanding, I still might have decided to stay except for the most crucial factor: the quality of my education.

AUC—touted as one of the best schools in all of Africa and the Middle East—is just not what I was expecting academically. The comparison that all of the international students make is that going to AUC is like going to high school—which doesn’t work for me because I liked my high school, very much actually. I planned my two semesters at AUC very carefully, and I devoted my current semester to fulfilling my outstanding 200 level history requirements. My next semester was supposed to be devoted to fulfilling SIS requirements, done through a combination of political science and area studies courses. I’m in one political science class right now – Comparative Politics of the Middle East—that I was very excited about initially. I love politics. I really do. I also think the Middle East is pretty intriguing, which you might have figured out already. This class, I figured, was tailor-made for my interests and taking it at AUC would offer me the opportunity to hear unique perspectives on the issues. Umm, well, not so much.

I learned more about the Middle East in the one marking period we spent on it in my ninth grade World Cultures class than I have so far in a 300 level, semester long college course. This particular course is taught like an eighth grade social studies class—except, again, I actually had a good social studies teacher in eighth grade, so I feel like writing that is an insult to her. I need to take foreign policy courses next semester for my functional concentration and I cannot take the chance that they will be as badly taught as Comparative Politics (Also: I’m not being overly critical. I know I have high standards, but even people who don’t care about school as much as I do agree that this class is the biggest joke of their college careers).

I’m not willing to risk the quality of my education and I’m certainly not willing to waste more time and money on AUC’s political science department, so I’m going back to AU for the spring semester. I’m registered for some fabulous courses: US Foreign Policy Toward the Middle East, taught by one of my all time favorite professors, a Counter-proliferation and WMD colloquia, Arab-Israeli Relations, Arabic, and a science GenEd. If I’ve figured it out right, going back to AU for the spring semester will allow me to essentially finish my International Studies degree, minus perhaps only one class. I’m also registered for a senior seminar in SIS, which means that next year I can write my history thesis on any topic I choose instead of being required to write on an international topic. This is fabulous because now I can write about some aspect of the history of the Pennsylvania Dutch community in Pennsylvania (I know, I know. But I love this topic).

The only regret I have is not being able to travel as extensively as I’d hoped, but I still have some things to look forward to. My plane ticket home is booked out of Ankara---Kelly and I are headed to Istanbul (I was bound and determined to see the Hagia Sophia for myself) for a few days, then taking a sleeper train to Ankara for Christmas with her sister. I’m scheduled to land at Dulles at 8:05 pm on December 26, and I’ve instructed my parents to bring my wool coat to the airport. I’m thinking now they should probably bring a parka (and mittens and a scarf and a hat and those little hunting hot hands packets) instead.

1 comment:

trailing grouse said...

Hi there Kate. I've lived in Cairo for a number of years and have always wondered just how 'academic' AUC is, rather than what it's claimed as being. This was a very interesting post - and confirms my suspicions.

AUC is probably, '..one of the best schools in all of Africa and the Middle East..' however, when you look at what benchmark they set, being the best may not be that hard!