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United Methodist students evacuate Cairo


6:00 P.M. EST February 4, 2011

Political unrest and violence have caused United Methodist students studying in Egypt to return home. Photo by Muhammad Ghafari, Creative Commons.
Political unrest and violence have caused United Methodist students studying in Egypt to return home. Photo by Muhammad Ghafari, Creative Commons.

United Methodist college students are among the hundreds of U.S. citizens joining in the mass departure from Egypt, a week and a half after protesters took to the streets to demand a new leader and sweeping reforms.

American University in Washington, D.C., which has no institutional relationship to The American University in Cairo, removed all 11 of its undergraduate students studying in Cairo. Eight of the students were at The American University in Cairo campus and three were in the international studies program operated by American-Mideast Educational and Training Services.

“I believe the last student was supposed to fly out last night,” said Maralee Csellar, an American University spokesperson, in a phone interview Feb. 4. “The last student held on as long as he could because he was interested in seeing what was going on.”

Duke University had one student in Egypt doing independent research, and she was evacuated from Cairo Feb. 1, said Mike Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations.

“We also assisted in the evacuation of a recent (class of 2010) graduate who was in Cairo on a Fulbright Fellowship.”

Sairah Siddique, a Hendrix University student from Little Rock, Ark., has also made it safely back home. She is a student at The American University in Cairo.

Siddique recently started a blog about her experience in Egypt.

The American University in Cairo has been in communication with schools that have students enrolled in its English-speaking liberal arts institute. The institute is an independent, nonprofit university accredited in Egypt and the United States.

Staying behind

Not all of the students are leaving. Andrew Simon, a 2010 Duke graduate, plans to stay in Cairo.

A native of Guilford, Conn., Simon has been living in Cairo with other Americans since June as part of an intensive Arabic-language program.

"It's exhilarating," he said, describing recent events in Egypt for a story posted by Duke Today. "You have to be cautious, but this is 30 years in the making. This isn't something that’s sprung up overnight. ... People were disenchanted and they found an opportunity to raise their voices and demand their rights.

“It’s pretty cool to see something from such a base level build within a week timeframe,” he added. “This is a defining moment in the Middle East and across the region. People grab us on the street and say, ‘You're witnessing history in the making!’”

American University in Washington, Duke University in Durham, N.C., and Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., are three of the 122 U.S. colleges or universities related to The United Methodist Church.

*Gilbert is a multimedia news reporter for the young adult content team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy Gilbert, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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