Experiencing Egypt firsthand An insider's perspective on studying abroad

Ben Peterson is a history pre-law major at Oklahoma Christian. A senior from Austin, Texas, Ben was one of many OC students who studied abroad this school year; his travels took him to Egypt and other countries in the Middle East as part of a Council for Christian Colleges & Universities program. This is an excerpt from his blog about his experiences. The full blog can be found at http://blogs.oc.edu/ben.

The recent events shaking the Arab world, and especially Egypt, will have huge impacts on a lot of people. 

I am not an expert on the situation; all I really know is what I can learn from the same news outlets anybody has access to and from a few people that I know in Egypt. 

Those of us in the group that just returned are definitely watching closely because we feel connected – we were just there in Cairo, talking to people there and visiting places like Tahrir Square, which became the center of the popular outcry. 

I don’t have the same stake in the future of Egypt as the friends I made there, but I will be affected in a small way by the outcome of this uprising. 

People have asked me why so many people were protesting. That’s really very simple, and it’s something I finally came to understand after a few conversations I had with Egyptian friends. 

Some of the people I met in Egypt were not and are not content with the corruption and the lack of freedom in their society. 

This was actually the most interesting thing about the trip for me, to listen to their conviction that democracy was the way to go. 

In a way that none of us expected in the near future, many of the people of Egypt demonstrated this discontent with a president who had held on to authoritarian rule for 30 years, and a party that has dominated the country for more than 50 years. 

I remember talking with fellow students about the possibility of such an uprising as an abstract possibility. 

Watching and reading about the real thing, I was at times inspired by the Egyptian people, appalled by outbreaks of violence, and worried for the people I know in the country. 

All of this is connected to many of the issues that we were able to learn about while we were studying there in Cairo. 

I was blessed with a small window into the Middle East and into this country that is beginning a time of change, hopefully for the better. 

I don’t pretend to know what Egypt will look like in six months, but I am excited about the possibilities that the future will bring, even though they will probably be difficult. 

I’m thinking of my Egyptian friends, including Talal, who wrote to me early on: “I’m so happy about what’s going on in Egypt. We need new government, new president, and new life.” 

I deeply hope that the people of Egypt can achieve the change for which they so desperately yearn. Egypt will need those prayers for some time to come.