As news of potential terrorist threats made national news in early August, the U.S. government swiftly issued a travel warning and took the unprecedented precauation of shuttering two dozen American embassies and consulates in the Middle East and North Africa.
Staff in the college’s Office of International Education have been closely monitoring these international developments, and are working with Beloit College students and faculty who may be affected by the travel restrictions and unrest.
One student, for example, had planned to study in Egypt during the spring semester, but has since made arrangements to study in Greece instead, as the Egyptian program was cancelled. Plans for professor Amy Sarno's collaborative theatre project EraseHer—which includes a student trip to Cairo and New Cairo in January—have not been cancelled according to Associate Director of International Education Josh Moore, though alternative sites are under consideration.
"We will not have any students studying in the fall in the countries where US embassies are currently shuttered,” Moore explains. “The only students in the region in the fall will be in Morocco, where the security posture has not changed and where the embassy remains open. Detailed recommendations from the US State Department for Morocco can be seen here.
Currently, four Beloit College students are slated to study in the Moroccan cities of Ifrane and Rabat this fall with Professor Debra Majeed supervising their research projects and traveling to Morocco over the fall break to work directly with the students. Another student is planning to study in Jordan this spring, and OIE staff continue to monitor that country’s political situation as well.
When political unrest or natural disasters make it unsafe for students to study in particular countries, OIE works with its partners to identify alternatives. For example, during the Arab Spring, Beloit College’s Turkish university partner, Yeditepe University, was able to accommodate a student being relocated from Egypt. If the semester is underway, a student might return home and complete coursework under the supervision of in-country faculty, or, alternatively, under the supervision of Beloit College faculty members.
“In making decisions, we consult U.S. State Department information, but also with people on the ground,” says Elizabeth Brewer, director of international education. “In the case of Morocco, for example, one of our partners, AMIDEAST, has long experience dealing with matters of safety and security in North Africa and the Middle East, and we made sure to reach out to them for guidance. Networks of international educators also inform our decision-making.”
In responding to crises, open lines of communication are crucial, especially when events unfold after students have already arrived in their host country. The OIE serves as hub of information between students, parents, in-country program officers, and the Beloit College administration.