Dear Bloomsburg University students and faculty,
My name is Corey Diehl. I attended Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania from 2009-2013, earning a Bachelor of Arts in History. After spending a year outside of school, I decided to attend the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. At this program I am pursuing a Master of Public and International Affairs with a Major in Security and Intelligence Studies.
My classes were challenging last semester, but they were rewarding. The most challenging was a course on counterinsurgency that had us study both theoretical and quantitative work and then combine them into our own study. I also took a course on Geographic Information Systems software to try to gain a practical skill. I am taking Farsi and have really enjoyed the course. Outside of courses, I am involved with two different student working groups. The first is focused on Megacities, particularly political violence in Lagos, Nigeria. The second is focused on the policy options available for states, particularly in the EU, to deal more efficiently with the influx of Syrian refugees. I completed my internship requirement for GSPIA as a staff writer/social media intern for Homeland Security Today magazine. While the organization doesn’t necessarily align with my views on certain issues, I have still found it to be a valuable experience. I’ve also begun a second internship at the city of Pittsburgh’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (OEMHS)/Fusion Center.
Thanks to a generous scholarship from the Nationality Rooms here at Pittsburgh, I was able to travel to Cairo, Egypt over the summer of 2015 in order to study Arabic. It was my first opportunity to study abroad and Egypt proved to be an incredible experience, and I found it to be a once in a lifetime experience. Ramadan was an incredible time and was unlike anything I personally have seen before. The streets would be empty throughout the day, and after the evening prayer it was like the entire city came alive. In a city of over 10 million people it is impossible to understate this. I studied Arabic at the Fajr Center for the Arabic Language and was pleased with the class. It was an intensive program, with class occurring five days a week, five hours per day. If any students are interested in affordable options for studying abroad I would highly recommend the center.
Aside from study, while none of my friends wanted to do much during Ramadan I still was able to see many of the points of interest in Cairo. I had the opportunity to see much of Islamic Cairo. Some examples are the Al-Azhar mosque, Muhammad Ali mosque, and the markets. The sheer size of the minarets and mosques is indescribable. Of course, I was intent on seeing the Great Pyramids and Sphinx as well. To say they are impressive is an understatement. I unfortunately was not able to travel outside of the city. I also found the opinions of some of my Egyptian friends on what is going on in their country incredibly interesting. Due to political conditions, I had to get to know them quite well before they spoke on a lot of issues. However, I came to believe that the Egyptian people are not given nearly enough credit for their political awareness. They are acutely aware of the state of the country and also aware of the limitations they have to instigate change.
I really enjoyed being in an environment where the lifestyle and culture were so different from my own. The most difficult transition was definitely the sense of time. Everyone was always late if they showed up at all. The preeminent example of this for me was when my apartment had plumbing issues. I spoke to the plumber over the phone several times, and I heard Insha'Allah very often. This cultural tendency was initially very frustrating, but I adapted. Overall, Egyptians are deserving of their reputation for friendliness and generosity. A great example of this is when my neighbors had the kindness to cook my roommates and me a meal of duck and rice.
Traveling to Egypt was truly a once in a life time opportunity and I would encourage others to do the same. I would urge anyone planning to study abroad to seriously consider Egypt. I would also encourage them to avoid major institutions such as American University in Cairo. This is due to the fact that American in Cairo is incredibly expensive for foreigners. Furthermore, I would also suggest that anyone who travels abroad try to avoid staying with other Americans. I had the good fortune to live with several students from around the world and am better for it. From Fiji, Germany, the UK, and of course Egypt, I truly was able to meet a wide variety of people from all over the world.
There are several suggestions I will make for anyone who is interested in traveling to Egypt. The first is to travel light to the country. However, keep in mind that clothing and shoes in particular can be comparatively expensive. In fact, domestic goods in Egypt will often be very affordable while anything imported is extremely expensive. The second suggestion I would have would be to avoid asking for directions or anything when in a tourist area. People will often be waiting for foreigners around such sites, and upon asking for directions they will take you to their shop. A third suggestion would be to always travel with an Egyptian when possible. By doing so, you will save yourself a significant amount of money and time in any activity you set out to do. The last suggestion I have would be to remember that nobody will help you for free. Tipping is obligatory, and the individual will often refuse it at first. This is just a cultural politeness habit; you have to pay.
I hope anyone reading this found it helpful and would be encouraged to travel to Egypt in order to study abroad. If I can offer anyone suggestions or aid in any way, I encourage interested individuals to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.