"Amazing in Every Aspect:" SciencesPo Students Reflect on Time at AUC
AUC hosted 26 students from SciencesPo, an international research university in France that is ranked among the world’s best institutions in the fields of humanities and social sciences. The students visited campus as part of AUC’s Faculty-Led Program, which previously hosted students from George Washington, DePauw and Westmont universities.
As part of their stay at AUC, the students attended lectures on a variety of topics, including Egyptian cinema, the Coptic component within the Egyptian national identity, microfinance and women’s empowerment, urban planning and gentrification, history of Arabic literature and herbal medicine in Egypt.
“The AUC program was amazing in every aspect,” said Ali Benramdane, a SciencesPo student. “I enjoyed the content of the lectures, and the topics were carefully chosen to answer our questions regarding our different fields of interest. The AUC professors were among the best in their fields: very qualified and passionate about their topics, but most importantly, they were available and more than ready to answer any of our questions.”
Abhinav Shetty, another SciencesPo student, echoed the same sentiment. “Egypt has always been a beacon of literature, music and more,” he said. “To be able to learn about it from such passionate, professional individuals really added a new dimension to our previous learning about the Middle East and Egypt. My curiosity and interest were more than satisfied by the sheer diversity and depth of the academic lectures that we were able to take part in at AUC. What I’m really excited to take back to Sciences Po is the robust amount of academic information that we got from AUC faculty, including the one-on-one time they spent with researchers who dealt with their specific topics.”
This customization of the program made all the difference. “‘Tailored’ is not enough to describe the way the program was organized in order to fit the interests of all students,” said Lamiss Azab, academic adviser at SciencesPo who accompanied the students. “The students were interested in different subjects that they wanted to delve in — and AUC showed us that it has faculty members who are extremely competent in all different domains. These faculty members were always available, so we felt at home because the professors were always at our disposal. This is so generous and sometimes impossible at other universities we visit. We also had this possibility of contacting professors who were not on our list of faculty members. They were absolutely ready to meet our students, and this made the experience even more homely.”
The students also went on cultural trips to churches, synagogues and mosques as well as NGOs and community organizations, such as Sekem for sustainable development. “These trips allowed us to see a lot and get a taste of the rich culture and heritage of Egypt — and also its people, by visiting associations that work in human and sustainable development, such as Sekem and the Association for the Protection of the Environment with the Zabaleen community.”
These trips left their own impact on students. “The one thing that stood out during all the seminars and lectures we attended was our interaction with the woman from the Zabaleen community,” said Shetty. “As someone who worked with NGOs myself, looking at how such a strong community was built up, surrounding a minority community that even fosters social harmony — that really left a deep impression on me, and I am going to introduce this community to other associations at my university … because I do see the possibility of a functional, professional relationship.”
For Inès Mir-Moreaux, a SciencesPo student, meeting different personalities was one of the hallmarks of the visit. “The lectures and trips were really rich, and gave us the chance to meet people whom I wouldn’t have been able to meet in my life in any other context,” she said.
Many of the students enjoyed the AUC campus in particular. “I found the AUC campus to be a perfect mix between Andalusian gardens and Egyptian architecture,” said Benramdane. “I enjoyed the level of organization and hospitality that really make up the charm of Egypt and AUC. I will go back to France with valuable feedback on my field of research and amazing memories from the lectures and trips, and of course, the souvenirs from Khan El Khalili. I wish to come back to AUC in the future.”
“The University itself is beautiful, so resourceful, and it was great to have access to the library and professors,” said Kaja Guttormsgaard, a SciencesPo student. “My experience at AUC was very nice. I found that we were taken very good care of. Through this exchange program, we really got to see Egypt from so many different angles — through the lectures and trips that were organized for us.”
From a learning perspective, what the students took back home with them was more than just academic and cultural knowledge. It’s also the “spirit of the lectures” and professors’ accessibility and openness to questions, as Azab put it. “It’s not guaranteed that you can find this on any campus,” said Azab. “It shows strength in knowledge without arrogance. We now want to learn more about Egypt after this visit.”
There also is the hospitality and keenness to provide the best possible experience for SciencesPo students. “We always felt part of the student community at AUC even though we were there for just a week,” said Shetty. “I hope we can facilitate this exchange again with AUC. And I hope we can host AUC in Menton and share our own experiences. I would like to thank the whole AUC team that supported us throughout this trip, not only adjusting to last-minute shifts and changes, but also accommodating our needs during this week.”
Azab affirmed: “Our experience with the Faculty-Led program was very enriching on all levels for all students. We were welcomed so warmly by all the team here. Whether the lectures we had or the trips that were organized off campus — it was all very interesting. It’s another taste of Egypt. We could have come on our own and had a touristic tour, but this type of cultural opening on the country showed us that AUC is really keen to give us an enlightened understanding of the different aspects of cultural life in Egypt, and this is what we wanted. Thank you, AUC.”