With their passion and love for traveling, Sharon Davis, professor of sociology, and Kimberly Martin, professor of anthropology, planned and organized a 13-day trip with 10 students to Egypt during January Interterm.
It was coordinated through an educational tour company, which helped keep the costs low.
“A lot of students want to travel but not for a long time,” Davis said.
Students feel more secure when they are in a group, and they adapt better and experience less culture shock, Davis said.
The idea of taking a trip to Egypt came up, while visiting the pyramids in Mexico. They wanted to compare the pyramids in Mexico and in Egypt.
“As an anthropologist, if you haven’t been to Egypt by the time you died, you have failed,” Martin said.
Most professors take about a year or two in advance to plan the entire trip. However, Davis and Martin planned the entire trip in a couple of months.
The trip started in Cairo. They said they could see three pyramids from their hotel balcony.
At night they stared at the pyramid from the hotel’s rooftop cafe as the sun set.
From there, the group flew into Luxor.
They toured ancient Thebes, went around the Valley of Kings, saw stone temples, experienced the Giza pyramids, toured Alexandria, walked through markets and took a cruise through the Nile River.
While being on the cruise for four days, the group was able to experience life on the Nile. Since most of Egypt is a desert, citizens tend to congregate and settle near the Nile since it has fertile lands.
“While on the Nile you can observe life,” Davis said. “It was getting a glimpse of the rural life on the Nile.”
As for Martin, her favorite part of the trip was seeing all the Egyptian hieroglyphics inside the temples. She got to view ancient pictures of gods, goddesses, feasts, war and stories of the rulers.
Sareen Zinzalian, junior chemistry major, said her favorite part was riding in the hot air balloon.
“It was a beautiful view because you could see how the desert of Egypt blended into the fertile land of the Nile,” Zinzalian said.
“(The trip) made (Egypt) much more human,” Martin said. “Monuments are impressive, but I really care about the humans that lived during that time.”
The group was also able to do was ride on camels and donkeys.
“My favorite part of Egypt was riding the camel down at the Pyramids at Giza,” junior criminology Fatima Suarez said. “This trip has influenced my perspective on the world a great deal.”
“It was like being in a movie,” Martin said. “It was just fabulous.”
The people in Egypt were incredibly caring and friendly, Davis said.
The trip was even more enjoyable and smooth because of the great cooperation of the students.
All the students went along with the flow, Martin said.
“No one was whining or complaining,” Martin said. “They also made sure no one felt left out.”
“It was a fabulous group of students,” Martin said.
Since their trip was during the Presidential Inauguration, they were able to see how another country viewed America on that historical day.
They came across very enthusiastic, with Egyptians supporting Obama, Davis said.
In the summer, the weather in Egypt can reach 120 degrees, making it one of the reasons why they took the Egypt trip during January.
Also, the rates would have been much more expensive in the summer, and during January Interterm, the tuition is free.
In the summer, the tuition would have been extra, especially for the six students who either took Core 320 or Core 310, Davis said.
“I think it was a great success,” Davis said. “They got to learn it having fun because they were there and experiencing it.”
Although the group read books about the country, and did two presentations while on the trip, reading or studying a culture and country is different from actually being there, according to Davis and Martin.
“I learned a huge amount, and I think students did as well,” Martin said. “I wish more students could and would travel.”
Zinzalian offered advice to some students who are hesitant or afraid to travel.
“Without a person taking risks, a person cannot grow,” Zinzalian said. “I think that without taking that chance, you never know what you’re missing out on. Just do it.”
In January 2010, Davis and Martin plan on taking another trip with students, but to another country, maybe South America, Greece, India or Australia. They might do Egypt again the following year.
“We will keep listening to the students,” Davis said. “We will try to make a good match.”
Natalie Veissalov can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.