In recent years, the Middle East has become an increasingly popular spot for American college students on study-abroad programs, choosing Arab over French or German and the dusty capitals of Damascus and Cairo over Berlin or Madrid.
But in the last few months, as the Arab spring has given way to heightened violence and political instability (not to mention the arrest and detention in November of three American students in Egypt), many students, parents and college administrators are thinking twice about these programs.
“We suspended our program in Egypt last summer,” said Jeffrey W. Cason, dean of international programs at Middlebury College, which evacuated 22 students from Alexandria after the revolution began. “But now we have a program in Amman,” he said, explaining that the college, known for its language departments, had already decided to start an Arabic program with the University of Jordan when it became the only option. “Some kids were worried Amman would be a less lively place, but for us it was the safest place,” he said.
Debby Brodsky, a junior at Brandeis University, where she is an Islamic and Middle Eastern studies major, also changed plans. She enrolled in the program as part of an exchange program through Middlebury, she said, but she was not interested in studying in Jordan. Instead, she will attend the University of Haifa, in northern Israel. “There are a lot of Arabic speakers in that area, and frankly, I am relieved as it feels safer,” Ms. Brodsky said.