Spring term class in Lebanon relocates to Egypt

The course was relocated due to political unrest in Lebanon


Tanner Hall, ‘21, Rafay Hassan, ‘22, Anne Riter, ‘22, and Lauren Fredericks, ‘20, studied Arabic at the American University of Beirut this summer. Photo courtesy of Lauren Fredericks.

Kristen Xu

Students on the roster for a long-anticipated class in Lebanon will instead be going to Cairo, Egypt because of the country’s political unrest.

The spring term class, “Writing Mt. Lebanon” was scheduled to be a feat years in the making. It was a collaborative effort by Arabic professor Antione Edwards and senior Arabic students that took two and a half years to plan.

“Ever since we were first-years, the hope was that we would have a spring term [class],” Lauren Fredericks, ‘20, said. “We’ve been talking about it ever since I came to W&L.”

The 200-level class was originally based in Beirut. The class roster was determined and formal paperwork was turned in by winter break.

But on December 17, accepted students received an email informing them that both the trip’s location and syllabus had changed. It would now be taking place in Cairo, Egypt.

Mark Rush, the university’s director of international education, said that school trips are canceled or modified if the administration cannot ensure students and staff will be “safe and secure.”

“We knew it was a possibility [the location] was going to change,” Fredericks said. “I understand that the decisions they make are based on state department standards or current political climates, but it does feel like a bit of an overreaction on their part. The Lebanese protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful. It’s made up of people simply wanting a less corrupt and more accountable government.”

This is not the first time a study abroad opportunity has been modified.

A spring term trip to Nepal was canceled in 2015 due to an earthquake the night before departure day. The class was then taught in Lexington on campus.

The Cape Town, South Africa summer internship opportunity was moved to nearby suburb Stellenbosch because of a local water crisis in 2018.

Although changes and cancellations of trips are for the safety of students, they can impact the study abroad experience.

Students had the opportunity to withdraw from the class if they did not like the new location or syllabus, but no one did. To remain in the class, students had to fill out paperwork to confirm that the original tuition paid for the class would be transferred to the new class in Egypt.

Fredericks said the change in location is “bittersweet.” But even though she’ll miss out on experiencing Beirut, she said she’s still interested in what the new class has to offer.

“It’s obviously a big transition. The entire syllabus had to be rewritten by Professor Edwards. He flew out [on an] emergency scouting trip to Egypt to see where we would stay, where we would study and what the new syllabus would entail,” Fredericks said. “It will be really exciting to explore the history and culture of Egypt itself and experience something new.”

Although Fredericks said that senior Arabic students still sees Egypt as a great way to end their college careers, some students are still considering going to Lebanon, with or without support from the administration.

“I think a lot of the students are hoping to make it out to Lebanon either spring break or after the class,” she said. “Even if the school might not deem it safe to provide the money and the supervision to send us to Lebanon, that doesn’t mean I won’t go.”

Correction: Due to reporting and editing errors, this article originally stated that the state department had raised Lebanon’s travel advisory from a level two to a level three. Lebanon’s travel advisory was a level three before the trip was cancelled.