Witnessing History Unfold

International students who stayed in Egypt during the uprising tell their tale

AUC international students in Tahrir amidst tear gas

In considering where or if to study abroad, international students often go through a mental checklist of questions. What will I eat? Where will I live? Will I make friends there? Suffice it to say, the question, Will there be a revolution?, seldom makes the top three. Yet, as the world watched the January 25th Revolution, many international students at AUC, some of whom had only just arrived in Cairo, were privy to this transformative event in Egyptian social and political life.

Having recently graduated from Tiffin University with a degree in criminal justice, Tim Larsen came to Cairo in June 2010 to study over the summer at the Arabic Language Institute. Larsen was selected as a resident adviser (RA) at AUC's Zamalek Dormitory and was in the first days of his new position when the revolution began to gain momentum. "There was a tremendous amount of excitement and nervous energy around the dorms in the first days," said Larsen. "Some of the study-abroad students were very excited, while others were concerned. I felt that my role during this time was to do my job as an RA here and try to have a calming effect."

Other students found themselves purposely or accidentally in the middle of much of the action in Tahrir Square. Frank Rasmussen and Mads Noergaard-Larsen, two journalism students from the Danish School of Media and Journalism, saw the revolution as a way to further explore their intended craft. "We applied to AUC to explore life in the region, and as we were preparing to come to Egypt, we had begun to hear about the Tunisian Revolution and the possibility that it would spread to Egypt," said Noergaard-Larsen. "I was aware of my role, not as a protester, but as a documenter. When we were in Tahrir Square on the 25th and 28th, we were careful to protect those with whom we spoke. Even through the tear gas, it was an exciting feeling in the square and also a fascinating place to be because everyone was, in a way, a journalist."

Rasmussen echoed the same sentiment. "To be present for such a pinpointed moment, as a foreigner, you hardly feel that you are worthy of such involvement. I have a humbled attitude toward the bravery of the Egyptian people," he said. Like Rasmussen and Noergaard- Larsen, Clare Lofthouse, who came to AUC as a study-abroad student for a semester, was able to experience some of the events at Tahrir Square. "I was very wary at first, but when we were on the square, we were greeted with smiles and welcomes," she said. "People were very helpful and watched out for our safety."

Lofthouse returned to her native England briefly in the middle of the 18 days, but is pleased to have been able to return to Cairo to finish her semester at AUC and experience life in Egypt during the transition. "I study political science, so this is another reason to remain in-country, as it is firsthand experience and learning directly related to my interest," she noted. "The whole country talks politics now, which is great for my learning."

By Madeline Welsh