International Student Advances Cross-Cultural Ties Through AUC Studies

Currently, a graduate fellow at AUC’s Middle East Studies Center, Heather Hunt (YAB ’09, ALU ’11) has long been passionate about forging non-traditional, global connections and cross-cultural understanding. Her regional experience in the Middle East, combined with her advertising, marketing and business expertise, shape her unique perspective. First coming to AUC as a study-abroad student, Hunt graduated with honors from Southern Methodist University, where she also received a Master of Liberal Studies, concentrating in the fields of international affairs and human rights. She spent a year abroad at AUC, where she also studied Arabic.

News@AUC spoke with Hunt to learn more about her diverse and dynamic path.

1) Why did you originally decide to come to AUC?

I have been curious about the world and foreign affairs since I was a young child. Raised as the daughter of an East German immigrant in small-town Texas, I can honestly say I have no idea where my passion for Egypt and the Middle East stems from. All I know is that some of my earliest memories are of Cleopatra, the pyramids and hieroglyphics. My childhood fascination of ancient Egypt grew into a desire to pursue a degree in history with the dream to someday visit Egypt. By the time I went to college, I was determined to actualize those dreams, and I began the first of two undergraduate semesters studying abroad in Egypt.

2) What was a highlight of your time at AUC and in Egypt?

Egypt feels like my second home now, making it difficult to share a single highlight. It is the people I've met along my journey and the relationships that I've made living in Cairo that keep me coming back to this spirited place. Specific to my time at AUC, however, I would have to say a highlight was running behind Salima Ikram [distinguished university professor of Egyptology] on her field trips. I still feel proud when I see her on National Geographic and get to boast that I took several of her Egyptology courses.

3) How has your experience at AUC and in Egypt helped your career? How has it impacted your life more broadly?

My one semester studying at AUC profoundly shaped my life and, ultimately, my career path. I have spent the last decade studying the Middle East and North Africa at the undergraduate and graduate levels at institutions in the United States and Egypt. It is through everyday life in Cairo that I am growing my regional knowledge, language abilities and network.

There is not a better place than Cairo and AUC to develop my research, scholarship and regional expertise. When I graduate from AUC in May of 2018 with my second master’s degree, I will have spent more than four years of my young adult life studying and working in the MENA region. This has prepared me to continue my efforts of advancing education and fostering mutual exchange and cultural understanding between Americans and the people of the Middle East, which is needed now more than ever.  

4) What advice might you give to current American students considering enrolling at AUC?

The philosopher, St. Augustine of Hippo, said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” My advice to international students is follow your instincts, pack your bags and yalla!