10 Hardest Things About Working in Study Abroad

  1. Students tell their parents little to nothing.  This is scary because then they call you, usually owing money or unable to locate their child or crying.
  2. Most people are fairly certain that they are the first human being to ever go abroad, and there’s just no way you actually know what you’re saying.
  3. Travel-envy!  Seriously, I have mentally planned so many fantasy trips that when I have the time and money I can just pull one out from the vault.
  4. The things you can’t help students with.  There are so many different programs, so many students, and so many intense visa regulations; I cannot memorize them all.  I wish I could help you, but I am not in charge of everything, and I’m not responsible for ensuring that every possible aspect of your trip is covered.  I am not a travel agent, and you really need to talk about Financial Aid with Financial Aid, and your Academic questions need to go to your Academic Advisor.
  5. The stuff you can’t tell students.  Yes, most of you will get in.  Almost all.  But if I tell you that, two things will happen.  1) You won’t turn in all your stuff on time, and 2) via Murphy’s law, you will be our only rejected student.  So no, I can’t tell you your chances.  Just turn in your damn application on time!
  6. Everyone else on campus thinks they know better.  So often other students, administrators or faculty members start telling people what will or won’t happen, how much things cost, or a what a policy is.  If it didn’t come direct from this office, don’t trust it.  We can’t make them stop talking, and many people believe policies to be true that were never even in effect during their time at NU.  Nonetheless, they persist.

Concerns About Egypt Going Forward

  • The new constitution needs to come hastily but be respectful of human rights
  • State of Emergency needs to be lifted.  Now.
  • The police force (or a police force, for those not thrilled with the last one) needs to be instated, for everyone’s sake
  • Economically, it is critical that Egypt be seen as stable and inviting asap, in order to bring the tourism industry back up to speed.  Without it, Egypt cannot function
  • The military council–of which I am not particularly afraid despite the fact that it is military–must usher in a quick transition to a civilian government
  • To that end, we need real elections with real parties and discourse on policy.  My understanding is that is already happening, with candidates already taking out papers to be on the ballot
  • The US needs to maintain th 1.3 billion in foreign aid from the Mubarak era, but perhaps it could be better spent once it gets there
  • The heightened sense of unity and tolerance needs to continue; it is the only way forward for Egypt.  It was shown so beautifully for Christmas services a few months ago, when Muslim Egyptians became human shields so their Christian countrymen could go to services without threat of another suicide bomber, and kicked into high gear when non-Muslim Egyptians started taking the blows of water cannons so that their Muslim friends and neighbors could pray in peace.  The great mix of men and women, young and old, Muslim and Christian and all things in between needs to continue and become a force within civil society, not just within the protests.  anyone who tells you this was a “student protest” or “young men’s protest” or “Muslim Brotherhood protest” is just wrong.  Women were an overwhelming part of the protests, as were non-student-age people, and that’s what took this from another protest no on in America ever heard of to a revolution.
  • Egyptians mustn’t forget what they have accomplished.  And any time their government fails them again, even in a small way, they must wield their power to effect change.

Choosing a New Place

When I first heard about the Benin trip, and how it had a one-week France component, I was a little bummed.  I had already been to france, I already had that stamp.  But I think a lot changed when I was in Cuba. As the trip got closer, I thought of paris as a comfort, as a home in so many ways.  As a breath of fresh air, the way a weekend at my parents’ house can be. 

Now, when I think of bangladesh, I don’t think oh! Now I can say I’ve been to asia.  I don’t think about all the great proximate countries and how to cram them in as cheap as possible.  I think about how hard it will be to experience my first truly blind foreign language experience.  I think about how ill probably be alone, and what will I do for housing.  I think about how they treat women, and wonder whether harassment is prevalent. 

When I think about the Dominican Republic, I think of the comforts of Spanish and familiar food.  I think of the proximity to Cuba and Haiti.  I think about how going there three times in a six month period will be such an asset.  Of course, I also hope there will be enough food, and that I wont get sick of spending so much time there.

I think a lot, too, about the choices I don’t make.  Latin america isn’t supposed to be my focus area.  Shouldn’t I be in Africa or the Middle East?  Shouldn’t, as a friend suggested, I be running back to Cairo?

This is where it gets dicey and where I get all Bell Jar.  Each place I choose is a million I don’t.   And of course, money is always a factor, and my career, and the strength of what I intend to do in this new place. 

How do you pick where you live, go on vacation or work?  For me, a co-op abroad will be all of those things, in its own way.