SITG Dispatch from Cairo

by Jared Maksoud, ’25 (Summer 2023)

Hello, my name is Jared Maksoud, and I am a rising Third Year in the University. I am majoring in Data Science with a minor in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (concentration in the Arabic Language). I have spent this past summer in Cairo, Egypt studying Egyptian Colloquial Arabic (or Aameya) at the International House of Cairo. I have studied the Arabic Language extensively at the University of Chicago, Modern Standard Arabic specifically, and wanted to put my skills to the test. Considering ECA is drastically different from formal Arabic, this was a huge challenge.

The small class size at IH Cairo greatly expedited my progress in the language. There was one other student in my class which allowed us the ability to improve in reading, writing, and speaking quickly. My average workday consisted of class until 2:30 in the afternoon when I would return to my apartment to avoid the heat and study alongside my roommates for 2-3 hours. After this we would typically go out into downtown, exploring historical landmarks, quaint cafés, and Egyptian stores and restaurants until late at night (around 10:30-11). At the beginning of this trip, many people I would try to converse with called me out in my formal speaking, as I had not yet adjusted to the Egyptian language. However, towards the end of my trip, I was having full conversations with locals in my favorite café (Hakeem Al-Habashy Coffee) and many of my Uber drivers. I had never expected to progress this far after only studying for a single summer.

My personal objective for this trip was to improve in the language so much that I could communicate with my large family in Alexandria, Egypt, who I had never met before. Towards the end of this trip, I took a shuttle up to visit them and stayed with them for a weekend. I had never met a group of more generous and kind people; they showed me around the entire city and took me to all the places my father used to frequent when he grew up there. Further, we took a trip an hour outside Alexandria to the most beautiful beach I had ever seen, North Coast. My skill in the language improved drastically, I was able to have full conversations in Egyptian Arabic with my family which allowed me to closely connect with them.

I would like to sincerely thank the University and the FLAG program for this life-changing experience. I’ve learned so much about the world, my family, and myself. I would like to thank my Arabic professors, specifically Ustadha Zainab Hermes and Ustadh Osama Abu-Eledam, who tremendously assisted my language studies.