By Ioanna Moriatis | This story appeared in the July 2017 edition of AUC Today.
AUC’s Residential Life Cross-Cultural Program (RCCP) breaks exchange and travel down to its very basics: people. With dialogue as their map, AUC dorm residents and their counterparts from Southwestern State College in Kathmandu, Nepal had the chance to explore and discover new things beyond geographical constraints. The RCCP had the Nepali students visit AUC and, in turn, a group of AUC students visited their peers in Nepal, immersing themselves in a new country and getting to know more about the world and themselves in the process.
“When you visit a place, you usually use the word ‘traveling,’ but what you really mean is that you’re visiting as a tourist or touring,” said Chadi Ben Ghanam, an AUC student majoring in management of information and communication technology who traveled to Nepal. “When we traveled, we felt that we really engaged in a cultural experience, interacting with people, learning the language and exploring places tourists don’t typically explore.”
Open to AUC students living in the University Residences, the Residential Life Cross-Cultural Program created an opportunity for students to develop a new mindset while traveling. “The notion of cross-culture has become an increasingly important aspect of discussion,” said Lamish Hamdy, Living Learning Communities officer at the Office of Residential Life. “Through the Living Learning Communities program, dorm residents are exposed to different cultures and environments, stimulating them both intellectually and socially.”
She added that the program allows students who might not have been able to travel to benefit from being outside of their own country. “The program allows dorm residents to enjoy an intellectually fruitful experience abroad at a lower cost, making it affordable to the wider dorm community,” Hamdy said. “Our aim is to enhance the development of students living on their own and away from their homes and families.”
For the students, meeting new people was an opportunity to form cherished friendships. “The most amazing part of this program was meeting the students from Nepal here in Cairo first,” said Iyed Hamadi, a business administration sophomore and an international student from Tunisia. “We were able to befriend them and get to know them very well. It was a beautiful moment landing at the airport in Nepal because we all knew each other. As soon as we arrived, we all greeted each other, hugging.”
Echoing similar sentiments, Hanin Sonbol, construction engineering major, also emphasized the value of tolerance and open-mindedness. “Everyone had a different religious belief, but we all interacted well with one another. The best part of the trip for me was the cultural exchange and being able to develop new friendships.”
All dorm residents were invited to participate in the outings and tours organized for Southwestern State students inside and outside of Cairo. The students and supervisors who were selected to participate in the program come from different countries, including Egypt, Tunisia and Palestine. This not only enhanced their cross-cultural perspective, but also motivated them to socialize even more within their own University and dorm community. “We didn’t know each other at the beginning but now, we don’t end our days before going to the Housing Commons area to see each other, even for five minutes,” Sonbol said.
The trip also offered students a chance to consider what they had learned in classes in real-world situations and to see things from a different standpoint. “As a political science student,” reflected Lilia Errahaiem, economics major, “I’ve studied what might constitute an underdeveloped country. Going to Nepal and seeing things myself was so different; it really changed my political perceptions. In many of my classes, I’m now trying to focus my research on Nepal.”
Students didn’t expect that their participation in the program would also open the door to beneficial networking opportunities. The students visited both the Nepali ambassador in Egypt and the Egyptian ambassador in Nepal, in addition to other Arab ambassadors in Nepal. “The trip offered students a diplomatic experience,” noted Hamdy, adding that students were able to approach this experience through a variety of lenses: academic, cultural, professional and diplomatic.
Political Science Professor at Tribhuvan University in Nepal, Dhan Prasad Pandit, was central in pushing to establish a partnership between AUC and university students in Nepal. “The idea of visiting AUC, one of the most reputable universities in Egypt, was very exciting,” declared Pandit.
AUC students were also thrilled at the chance to share their campus with students from another university and country. “The Nepali students were so impressed by AUC and loved the campus,” recalled Hamdy.
More information about the Residential Life Cross-Cultural Program:
• The first RCCP was held during the 2014-2015 academic year with the University of Kelantan in Malaysia.
• In the 2015-2016 academic year, the Office of Residential Life launched its second RCCP with the University of Ibn Tofail in Morocco.
• The third RCCP was held with Southwestern State College in Nepal in 2016-2017.
• AUC’s Office of Residential Life signed its fourth RCCP agreement with the Office of Residential Life at the University of Pretoria in South Africa for the 2017- 2018 academic year. Currently, 14 AUC dorm residents are in South Africa, beginning phase one of the fourth RCCP.