Rebekah Paulus, a junior at Tabor College, feels like spending a semester in Egypt is something she was meant to do.
Paulus, a communications and international studies student from Corona, Calif., was born in the Middle East. Her father, Jim Paulus of Lander, Wyo., was a master sergeant in the Air Force stationed in Taif, Saudi Arabia.
Her family returned to the U.S. when she was about 18 months old, but she has always been interested in the Middle East.
Paulus said her interest in spending a semester in that part of the world began when she was a freshman at Biola University in Los Angeles majoring in intercultural studies with a focus on Islam. In January 2008, she went on a trip to Yemen, a very conservative Islamic nation on the Arabian Peninsula.
After transferring to Tabor College, she continued looking into studying in the Middle East. She found the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities’ (CCCU) Middle East studies program, and found studying in Egypt was the only available option.
She will stay in Cairo while taking classes and working as a volunteer. About 30 students from the U.S. and Canada will be in the program, Paulus said.
Paulus said she had some concerns about spending time in Egypt. It is a predominantly Islamic country, and has strict standards of modesty for women.
Paulus said she wasn’t sure she had enough clothes that matched the Egyptian standards to last four months.
She is not worried about any anti-American sentiment in Egypt.
“God has given me a peace about that,” Paulus said. Egypt also is a more moderate Islamic country than most.
Paulus will miss some things while she is in Egypt.
“I’ll really miss my family,” she said. “I love being an aunt and a sister. I won’t get to see my mom (Nancy Hassler of Corona, Calif.) before I go.”
She also will miss coffee. She said coffee in the Middle East is very bitter, and they leave in the grounds.
Paulus will take four classes for 16 hours of college credit while in Egypt.
One class is on the Arabic language. “I know how to say ‘hello’,” Paulus said.
The other classes are on Iswlamic thought and religion, Middle East politics, and people and cultures. She is more interested in experiencing the culture more than studying it, though.
“I’m really looking forward to spending a week with a Muslim family,” she said.
Paulus has been in contact with some of the other students who will be in the program. There is a group on the social Web site Facebook for the students. She will have more of a chance to get to know the others on the flight from Washington, D.C. to Cairo.
She has quite a bit left to do to prepare for her Jan. 13, 2009 flight. There are several books she is required to read. She also has a CD of Arabic to help prepare her.
Paulus said her family has been very supportive of her decision to study in Egypt.
“I’m surprised my parents are taking it so well,” Paulus said.