SALISBURY -- After his mother's study abroad trip this summer, Benjamin Cooledge, 3, recognizes the connection between pyramids and Egypt.
"We had a bit of trouble explaining where I was," said Susan Cooledge, 42, a French and ESL professor at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore who took an intensive course in Arabic and explored study abroad possibilities for Lower Shore students in Egypt. "My husband would show him on the globe and now, every time he sees a pyramid, he says 'Egypt.'"
Supported by a grant from the UMES Center for International Education, Cooledge focused on a goal to enhance localization of the curriculum by visiting Arabic language schools in Alexandria, Cairo and Luxor from July 10 to Aug. 3. The experience allowed Cooledge to renew her appreciation for the student experience in the classroom, observe modern Arabic foreign language programs and form relationships with foreign language colleagues in Egypt, she said.
"I'm probably teaching a little differently now," said Cooledge, who entered the country as a true language learner. "I went into a very challenging, very stressful environment -- I didn't know enough of the language to understand what was being said to me."
As Arabic emerges in the academic world, UMES offered its first Arabic language course -- which Cooledge completed -- last year.
"After studying for a semester, I was enthusiastic about the response of students to the course," she said. "I thought to complement that classroom instruction, a study abroad in this language would be a unique opportunity."
In Egypt, her search took her to the Ahlan-Egypt language school in Alexandria, the Alexandria University's TAFL Center's Arabic Language Program, the Alexandria Centre for Languages, the Ahlan-Egypt language school in Luxor and the American University in Cairo.
In Alexandria, Cooledge took a two-week intensive course in Modern Standard Arabic and Egyptian Colloquial Arabic at Ahlan-Egypt, which means "Welcome-Egypt." Run by an Italian-based company "Viaggi e Miraggi," the school is geared to "responsible tourism," she said.
"The interaction with the local community is very important and they made sure we were experiencing local life," Cooledge said. "Students stayed in accommodations within the community and visited local sites and events with the teachers as guides. They even had to opportunity to attend a wedding in a mosque."
In Luxor -- a winter study-abroad option -- she visited the Ahlan-Egypt location there and was guided by a teacher to some local ancient Egyptian highlights, Cooledge said. She toured the tombs and temples in the Valley of the Kings, including the tomb of King Tutankhamun, all while learning details of the program.
The American University in Cairo, which recently moved from its original 1919 location in historic Cairo to a new campus, was the final location Cooledge explored. The AUC offered a variety of options for Arabic study and offered local tourist sites nearby such as the Great Pyramids and the National Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, she said.
A seasoned traveler, Cooledge and Salisbury University language professor Arlene White currently take SU and UMES students on a joint study abroad trip to Paris during most winter semesters. The trip to Egypt took Cooledge out of her comfort zone.
"So few Americans are over there, so you really felt like a fish out of water," she said.
Adapting to the fast-paced lifestyle was challenging for Cooledge, who dreaded crossing streets in large Egyptian cities.
"There are so few traffic lights," she said. "It was a death wish crossing the street. I'd usually try to find someone Egyptian to cross with."