People ask me what I’m doing with my life, and inevitably I talk about Egypt. I’m excited about studying Arabic at Alexandria University, so of course I’m going to talk about my upcoming semester! However, I get one of two responses from people who hear that I’m headed to Egypt: incredible excitement or utter dismay. The polemical nature of these answers does amuse me, though I do take the concern behind the answers seriously.
Looking ahead at the semester, I should have a blank slate of expectations. To be clear: I don’t. I went abroad for 3.5 weeks this past January to Turkey and Jordan. The night before I left, in the midst of a chat with a good friend, I realized that I had seriously no idea of what exactly I was getting myself into for the next month. I knew roughly what to expect getting on a plane for a cross-Atlantic flight, since I somewhat remember flying to London in 1997. I knew roughly what to expect after coming back, since the spring semester was my second at Luther College. As for the month itself, my mind only gave me a blank, sheerly grey space of time. And that month turned into a wonderful set of experiences and learning and laughter with my classmates as well as various Turks and Jordanians. So, learning from the past says I should have little to no expectations heading into something to which I’m dedicated.
But, having that set of experiences in January means I have a starting point for my semester in Egypt. Before Turkey and Jordan, my only knowledge of Middle Eastern culture was from books and college courses. Now I’ve lived in the culture of lore at the center of the grand mixing pot between Africa, Asia, and Europe. I know that the Arabic concept of beautiful art and decoration is incredibly busy. Middle Eastern music doesn’t easily welcome harmonizing, a pastime of Luther students. Even before returning to the States, I began paying more attention to international news, especially since the Syrian massacres began to degenerate into sectarian violence and Egyptians popularly rejected Hosni Mubarak as tyrant. Professors bid me farewell from Luther with caveats concerning heckling. There are probably challenges and wonderful things ahead of me, and I hope I’m prepared for the mix.