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Egyptian Opportunity

11/23/2011

Lauren Feeney '15 of Duxbury, Mass. (on the right), learned what it's like to live in the Middle East last month as she and an Egyptian student switched places for a week to live with each other's families for the "Trading Places" television program. For a week, she lived in Cairo, Egypt, while her counterpart, Dania (on the left), stayed with her family in Duxbury.

While not an MCLA study abroad program, the English/communications major learned about Egypt and what it's like to be Egyptian during her experience.

"My MCLA professors were very excited for me," Feeney said. "They encouraged me to partake in this journey and were very accommodating with the work that I missed. Their enthusiasm for the trip inspired me to truly enjoy my time there.

"I absolutely loved it," she continued. "The entire trip was an amazing adventure and I felt like I was living in a dream. I rode a camel along the pyramids of Giza, saw the Sphinx, went on a boat cruise on the Nile River, visited a mosque and had to wear a hijab (scarf) due to the custom, went to Egyptian dance clubs, and much more!"

Feeney found life in Egypt to be very different than in America.

"Cairo has a very dusty, sandy feel to it. Cairo is the capitol of Egypt, and has a population of around 7 million people. Cairo is very citified, with people everywhere and tall buildings, and poverty is present. There are no traffic signs, so people drive very fast and there is no speed limit. I had to get used to that very quickly. The food consisted of a lot of rice, meats and bread. I tried pigeon for the first time - it was delicious!"

Egypt is getting over a time of turmoil with the Egyptian Revolution, which began on Jan. 25.

"The revolution started on Facebook as peaceful protests from teenagers who were tired of the poverty and the president's reign. The president, Muhammad Mubarak, had been taking money from the country and keeping it in bank accounts instead of using it towards poverty issues," Feeney explained. "Protests in Tahrir Square started, and an estimated three million people were there at one point. Violence erupted and people were killed. After 18 days of protesting, the president was fed up with the revolting and resigned from power."

Feeney said she "lived a piece of history by staying in Egypt during this difficult time. 

"I saw how proud Egyptians are of their country. Murals expressing freedom are plastered on every wall, and the Egyptians are looking forward to possibly becoming a democracy and voting for the first time," she said. "I don't think studying abroad could get any better than this."

While seeing the poverty in Egypt was difficult, Feeney said the best thing about her experience was when she traveled to Tahrir Square, where the revolution began.

"My Egyptian mother started explaining the history of the revolution, and she started crying over the loss of her people that were killed during the violence. She started to recite an Egyptian chant... which translates to 'Long Live the Revolution.' Once she started chanting, a poor, old man started to chant along with her, and I joined in as well. It was a very moving experience."

Feeney's Trading Places episode will be the first of the series and will air in Egypt on NBC One in April 2012. She hopes that an American company will buy the program and air it in this country.

"I will never forget my trip and the people that I met that I now call my family. A part of me is now in Egypt, and I am proud to call myself an Egyptian!" she said "I can't wait to go back in two or three years to visit my Egyptian family and see how the life has improved. ... We truly do live in a country of opportunities, and this trip was a wake-up call to inspire me to go through life living it the way I want to, and to accomplish my dreams."