NEWPORT, R.I. – During a two-week trip to explore the religious and educational history of Alexandria, Egypt over the recent holiday break, faculty members Chad Raymond and Sally Gomaa also took time to meet with some of that city’s most motivated high school students to talk about higher education options in the United States.
Raymond, assistant professor of political science and Gomaa, associate professor of English who is also an Alexandria native, met with Egyptian students to discuss the academic expectations and cultural nuances of the undergraduate experience in the United States. In addition, they made special reference to Salve Regina University as an institution offering a liberal arts-oriented, residential education that is not typically available in Egypt.
“Typically, state universities do not follow the liberal arts model,” Gomaa said. “A student has to declare his/her major once they join the university. Within each major, there are no electives and students have to take the same courses with their class until they graduate. While this has limitations and adds pressures on students, in my experience the system was quite rigorous and demanding.”
Gomaa received a Fulbright scholarship in 1994 to study in the U.S., which helped her achieve her goal to study language and literature in an English-speaking country.
“Once in the U.S. the opportunities for research and scholarship were immense,” she said. “I was also touched by how friendly, generous, and open-minded most American people were. After the Fulbright, I returned to Egypt to teach for one year, but I was determined to pursue graduate studies in the U.S.”
Gomaa said many motivated Egyptian high school students are extremely interested in pursuing an education in the U.S.
“This may be due to many factors, not least of which is fascination with American popular culture,” Gomaa said. “American music, American movies, and American fashion are extremely popular among young people in Egypt.”
The event was held at the Alexandria headquarters of two organizations: EducationUSA, a network of overseas educational advising centers supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and AMIDEAST, an American non-profit engaged in international education, training, and development programs in the Middle East and North Africa. Both organizations work to promote mutual understanding between citizens of the United States and other countries.
During the presentation, several students expressed an interest in internships, financial aid and the possibility of double-majoring. All students at the event were members of Alexandria’s Competitive College Club, which provides guidance to local students with an exceptionally high level of academic ability who seek to enroll in U.S. universities.
The event was made possible in part by the award received by Gomaa from the Sister M. Therese Antone Endowed Fund for Academic Excellence in 2011. Both Gomaa and Raymond plan to continue to communicate with some of the students.
“I believe that study abroad is one of the most powerful ways to examine one’s beliefs and to create a transnational point of view,” Gomaa said. “Sometimes, whether in Egypt or in the U.S., I meet people whose opinions are rather close-minded or judgmental. Those people may be my friends or people I really respect. But I know that their opinions are the result of not being exposed to the other side of the argument. Today, perhaps more than ever, we need to encourage opportunities for more dialogue and more exchange of ideas.”
Chad Raymond, assistant professor of political science and Sally Gomaa, associate professor of English, sit atop the summit of Mt. Sinai.
Raymond and Gomaa are pictured at the EducationUSA/AMIDEAST headquarters in Alexandria with Egyptian high school students.