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Jul 16, 2013 10:17 AM EDT

American Colleges Suspend Abroad Study Programs in Egypt Due To Political and Civil Unrest

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The rising political tensions in Egypt has not only caused civil unrest, financial instabilities, tourism setbacks, but also has resulted in suspending various international academic  programs that have been tied with various universities in the country.

In particular, colleges across the United States, most prominently the entire University of California (UC) System have discontinued their study abroad programs in Cairo amid declining security conditions in the region. Recently, the university forbade some 22 students who were planning to attend classes in advanced Arabic, among other subjects, at the American University in Cairo this fall semester.

"The situation in Egypt deteriorated very quickly" said Ines DeRomana, director of health safety and emergency response at the University of California's Education Abroad Program. "These types of decisions always depend on what happening on the ground. An increase in violence is usually a trigger, as is not being able to get a feel for what local police are doing."

The decision to shelve the program was taken after the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning urging American citizens to avoid visiting Egypt due to the recurring violence in the country.  

Early this month, 10 UC Davis students and staff members on a faculty-led program in Cairo were airlifted from the city and flown to Europe. While these students escaped the turmoil unhurt, one American student faced a bad consequence for being at the scene of the unrest.

Andrew Pochter, a 21-year-old Kenyon College student was killed early this month in the coastal city of Alexandria, Egypt, during anti-government demonstrations outside a Muslim Brotherhood office.

Similar student evacuations were conducted by University of Michigan and George Washington University.

"The suspension of this...program represents a great loss of opportunity for students," UC Berkeley alumni Ani Glenesk, who studied abroad in Cairo between 2008 and 2009, said. "I'd encourage all students who can to still find a way to study and learn in the Middle East."

Meanwhile, UC officials have transferred the 22 affected students to similar programs in comparatively safer regions like Jordan, Israel or Turkey. They are hoping to resume their Egyptian programs in the spring of 2014, once the situation becomes stable.

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