Spring 2010


A Celebration of Success

The Golden Age

Beyond Literary Bounds


What's Up With Downtown

From Inside AUC

Discovering A Foreign Land

Queen Rania Al Abdullah ’91 speaks at AUC, new Board of Trustees member appointed, PhD program begins, provost starts new lecture series, Arabic Web site launched


Professor Salah Arafa honored for environmental work

Ethar El-Katatney ’07 is the first Egyptian to win CNN’s African Journalist of the Year Award

Nevine Loutfy ’74 is the first woman in the Arab world to head an
Islamic bank

Gala El Hadidi ’05, ’07 is the youngest singer to join the Cairo Opera Company


Gihane Refaat, a graduate of the
Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Entrepreneurship and Leadership Center, recounts the lessons learned from the program

















AUC student Dalia
Abdel Ghany recounts
her study-abroad
experience in Japan

Photo by Dana Smillie


By Henry Agbo, as told by
Dalia Abdel Ghany

    The place known as Japan in English, I affectionately call Nihon, which means “the sun’s origin.” For me, the island country lives up to its name because, like the rising sun, it invokes positive memories, eye-opening experiences, countless adventures and opportunities that I had never imagined before I left Egypt. While I knew that spending a year as an exchange student at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Osaka, Japan would allow me to discover a unique and interesting culture completely foreign and different from anything else I had known, I could not have anticipated my caring and close-knit host family, my struggle to master written and spoken Japanese, or the excitement of my travels with a fellow AUCian and close friend, Allia Shahin. These experiences, while disparate, give a portrait of my time in Japan that, like the sun, has a trajectory rising from the first speck of light over the horizon at dawn to its descent in the evening.

  In front of the Osaka Castle

    When people ask me the inevitable question of why I decided to spend a year as an international student in the Asian Studies Program at Kansai Gaidai University, I give them my wellrehearsed, but completely genuine reply that I wanted to discover a unique and special place. When I decided to study abroad, I was allured by the prospect of living in London or Los Angeles because I had heard stories from friends about their remarkable experiences in these places. After being accepted to a semester-long program in London, though, I decided I wanted to extend my exchange for a whole academic year and began looking for another program that could cater to that wish. I scheduled a meeting with the International Programs Office to discuss my search, and received information about schools that matched my requirements: one for a university in Canada and another for this program at Kansai Gaidai in Japan. I went home that night and anxiously read through the brochures, but I found myself lingering for a lot longer on the Japan booklet. Perfect, I thought.

    As the time for my departure to Japan drew near, I became excited. A friend of mine from AUC, Allia Shahin, had also decided to go to Japan, and in the weeks leading up to our departure, we downloaded a few Japanese language lessons to prepare ourselves for Hirakata.When we arrived in Japan, however, we realized that very few people spoke or understood English. We were instantly inundated with signs advertising Japanese products, street signs in characters we barely recognized and a completely foreign city, which we had no idea how to navigate. Those first few weeks involved a lot of hand gestures as we struggled to pick up fragments of the language and learned how to get around our new home base. Luckily, everyone in the town is accustomed to foreign students because of the international university, and they were never reluctant to help when they saw us staring bewilderedly in the middle of an intersection or grocery store. The gentle kindness and radiant warmth of the people definitely reminded me of Egypt, and I felt good knowing that I was in safe hands.

Abdel Ghany with her host family At a park near the dormitory in Japan


Top: Abdel Ghany (right) at the Royal Palace in Bangkok, Thailand; center: At the Fushimi Inari Shrine; bottom: With friends at a Sushi restaurant  

    As my time wore on and the glow of the sun began to encompass me, the feeling of being welcomed increased dramatically. My host family, in particular, went to great lengths to ensure that I was enjoying my time. Although I share a room with Allia in the dorms, once or twice a month, I visit a Japanese family living an hour and a half away in the city of Nara. I play Nintendo Wii with the two boys while they ask me questions about my family, interests and life in Egypt. Soon after the start of this program, they began demanding that I come over more often than once a month, and I was happy to oblige them. The daughter of the family, Mari, constantly encourages me to speak in Japanese, allowing me to learn the colloquialisms and informal version of Japanese that people my age often use. I even had the opportunity to see a traditional Japanese household when we went to visit their grandmother, who is a marvelous cook and who made me rethink my initial aversion to Japanese food.

    Studying in Japan has also allowed me to take advantage of opportunities of traveling within the country and throughout the continent to see a part of the world that I had never seen before. One of my first stops was its capital city, Tokyo, where Allia and I became incredibly lost while trying to find our bus, which was parked in front of one of many Staabacksu (yes, that is Starbuck’s Coffee). I also went to Kobe, the only city in the Kansai area with a mosque; Kyoto, to attend the moon and fire festivals; and Nagano, to go skiing in the city where Japan hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics. Next semester, I hope to see Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where atomic bombs were dropped during World War II. Outside of Japan, I have been to Thailand and Malaysia, and in the spring, I have plans to visit China, South Korea, Indonesia and maybe also the Philippines and Vietnam.

    With all these chances to discover new places and learn about Japanese culture outside of the classroom, it is a wonder that one of my most valuable experiences is the academic component of studying abroad. In the fall, I took five classes: Speaking Japanese, Reading and Writing in Japanese, Chinese and Japanese Brush Painting, Religion in Japan and the Psychological Applications of Yoga, Buddhism and Taoism. All of these courses taught me an incredible amount about topics that might be harder to discover in Egypt. This spring, I am taking some business classes for my major in business administration and marketing, but the ones here will use Japanese business case studies as a model for learning. Beyond just the classes, though, I have been able to interact with many Japanese students who are in the English language program at Kansai Gaidai, as well as the plethora of international students from North America and Western Europe. We constantly intermingle so I feel like even though I did not go to the United States or the United Kingdom, I am still learning about those cultures as well.

    With a few more months remaining, the end of my time in Japan is quickly approaching. While I am still here, though, I have vowed to push myself further out of my comfort zone in the hopes that I will learn something transformative about myself. I want to work hard to improve my Japanese, enroll in a karate class, and continue to learn from and spend time with my host family. Ultimately, I want to make the most out of my time abroad before the sun sets on this experience.

At the Kansai International Airport