With over half of all students going abroad during their undergraduate years, Georgetown prides itself on its international character. In one area of the world, however, students’ study abroad horizons are limited.

Although Georgetown has one of the best Arabic language programs in the country and more students are opting to study this vital language, the university’s study abroad offerings in the iddle East fall short in quality and number. With the region’s politics occupying an ever-increasing role in U.S. foreign policy and consequently Georgetown’s classrooms, now is an ideal time for students to gain an up-close look at the iddle East.

While students currently have opportunities to study abroad at Georgetown-approved programs in Egypt and Morocco, these offerings fail to satisfy the increasing demands of students who wish to study in the Middle East. For Hoyas wishing to study Arabic, Georgetown’s program in Morocco is often a non-option, as the oroccan Arabic dialect is barely understood in the rest of the Arab world. American University in Cairo is the sole option for students wishing to have a Middle Eastern experience.

Yet as a recent petition by the Georgetown Israel Alliance to bring back a study abroad program in Israel indicates, many students are interested in seeing more study abroad offerings in the Middle East. The administration remains wary about instating more study abroad programs, dragging its feet on a final decision regarding the feasibility of study abroad programs in Beirut, despite promises that the decision would be made known by the end of last semester.

Yesterday’s car bombing in downtown Beirut demonstrates that the Middle East continues to be a sometimes-volatile area of political tensions. Yet if university officials continue to hold outdated and overly-cautious mindsets on study abroad in the Middle East and invoke the 20-year-old specter of Lebanon’s traumatic civil war, depriving students of the opportunity to study there and gain an understanding of the region, the divide between the Middle East and the United States will only continue to increase.

As long as Georgetown clearly informs students of the potential security risks posed in studying abroad, the university has fulfilled its responsibility in ensuring their security. The university must trust students studying in the Middle East to take responsibility for their safety and keep informed of the situations unfolding there.

Students are not seeking to study in Baghdad. They are asking to study at reputable Middle Eastern universities, most of which Georgetown has ran study abroad programs to in the past. If schools including Pennsylvania, Cornell and Ohio State have approved programs in Israel, Lebanon and Syria, then Georgetown should offer such programs. Or as an alternative to re-instating its own programs, the Office of International Programs could be more flexible in allowing students to participate in non-Georgetown-sponsored study abroad programs through other universities.

The university must revise its thinking and expand the flexibly of its study abroad programs if it is to produce experts on the region’s cultures, politics and languages. The university’s conservative attitude towards study abroad in iddle East will continue to restrict Georgetown students’ educational horizons.

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