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Appreciation for OIS

Sam Mitchell | Thursday, March 24, 2011

As an Arabic and Peace Studies double major, it goes without saying that I have an invested interest in the political climate throughout the Middle East. These are remarkable times, indeed, what the world is currently witnessing are revolutionary developments that will lead to a drastically changed region, and with it, a new era of legitimate rule by largely oppressed populations.

Remarkable times, yes, but also extremely precarious. I was one of the 26 students accepted to study abroad at the American University in Cairo during the 2011-12 academic year. The prospect of immersing myself within Arab culture was exciting to me not only because I would have the opportunity to enhance my own knowledge of the Arabic language, but also to create meaningful inter-cultural dialogues.

So when violence erupted throughout the Middle East, first in Tunisia, then Egypt, followed by Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and the like, I was academically enthused due to the nature of my research in conflict resolution. However, being the staunch realist that I am, I was also aware of the dangers and liabilities Notre Dame’s OIS faced in sending 26 of its students to Egypt next year.

Those who know me understand that I would jump at the opportunity to enter a war-zone in an effort to better understand the mechanisms of peace building. However, I do not hold OIS accountable for me not being able to further this goal given the circumstances.

Moreover, I take issue with Joe Massad’s statements in Wednesday’s Observer, “[With] options like other Arab countries abound, I was disappointed to find out that OIS would not pursue any of these opportunities.”

Even without the unpredictability of revolutionary activity spreading to other Middle Eastern countries, it is naïve to believe that a new program, even borrowed from other similar universities, could be constructed in less than a year’s time given the existing responsible methodology for validating OIS programs.

OIS granted us 26 students the opportunity to apply to other locations as a reasonable alternative to studying in Cairo. This was a generous offer considering that studying abroad is a privilege and not a right — just ask any of the ND students who were waitlisted to an abroad program. I will be traveling to Athens during the Spring 2012 semester and I look forward to the experience itself, and also to the location’s proximity to the Middle East for travel purposes. I applaud OIS for their dedicated work in making this happen.

If the Middle East can adapt to its current situation, so too, can we find ways to further our academic ambitions via the most logical alternatives possible.

Sam Mitchell


Knott Hall

Mar. 23