Although interest in Arabic language programs is increasing around the country, the number of U.S. students opting to study in Arab countries still remains relatively low, according to a report issued by the Institute of International Education.
The challenges that prevent U.S. students from studying in Arab countries include concerns about safety, the academic quality of Arab institutions and the differences between standard Arabic and the spoken dialect in many Arab countries, the report said.
And though Penn students wishing to study in Arab countries face these dilemmas, the University has already addressed some of these challenges.
According to Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations professor Joseph Lowry, the NELC department offers courses in colloquial Arabic to prepare students to speak these dialects.
"We generally try to teach students the written language in a way that enables them to easily learn to speak colloquial dialects," he said.
According to the IIE report, only 1 percent of U.S. students who study abroad - about 2,200 students annually - go to Arab-speaking countries.
There are 13 Penn students going to Morocco, Jordan or Egypt on Penn-approved programs this fall, according to Penn Abroad adviser Shaina Adams, who works with all students planning to study abroad in the Middle East and Northern Africa.
Although Penn Abroad offers a wide variety of approved programs in Arab countries, these programs don't always appeal to students.
College sophomore Ian Cohan-Shapiro is planning to study in Mauritania next semester. He will be conducting research while living with a host family, taking Arabic classes and studying Islamic sciences.
Cohan-Shapiro said he would be taking the semester off to study in Mauritania because the University would not allow him to receive Penn credit for his studies abroad.
"They wouldn't give me credit for going to a nonuniversity institution," said Cohan-Shapiro, who will be studying in a traditional Arabic school rather than an accredited university.
"One of the things that Arabic in the states tries to do is recreate situations … where normal conversations happen, and I proposed going to a traditional Arabic school, which would help my Arabic by far the most," Cohan-Shapiro added.
Unlike Cohan-Shapiro, College sophomore Elisheva Goldberg will be able to transfer credits when she studies in Rabat, Morocco next semester.
Goldberg said she was originally planning to study abroad for two semesters, but decided to go for only one semester because she felt that a "liberal-arts education at Penn" was more important than her desire to "immerse [her]self in other cultures," she said.
One of her biggest concerns about studying in Morocco is her unfamiliarity with the spoken dialect of the country.
"Moroccan Arabic is very different than any other Arabic," said Goldberg. "I'm a little worried about that."
And although Cohan-Shapiro and Goldberg said they are a little concerned about security when they study abroad, they both feel that they will be relatively safe.
"I don't think it's a security concern for myself because I feel that I would be adopted into the village," Shapiro said.