Several area colleges have begun to evacuate students studying abroad in Egypt, where political protests have grown more violent and the U.S. Embassy has urged Americans to leave the country.
Most of these students are taking classes at the American University in Cairo, an English-language university
founded by Americans that enrolls nearly 5,000 undergraduates from more than 100 countries. The university, which students call AUC, has temporarily suspended classes and is encouraging students to stay in their dorms and respect a curfew.
Several local colleges say they have checked in with their students and are confident they are safe, but it's unclear when or how the students will leave the country because of intense competition for flights out.
Georgetown University has 15 students studying at AUC, and officials are making plans to evacuate the students "as safely and quickly as possible," said Katherine Bellows, of the university's Office of International Programs, in a statement. (Update: The students safely landed in Qatar late on Monday and will spend the next few days at the university's campus in Doha.)
George Washington University has 14 students participating in three study abroad programs in Egypt. A dozen of those students are in Cairo participating in programs at AUC or AMIDEAST , an American non-profit that operates education programs in the Middle East. Two other students are in Alexandria with a program affiliated with Middlebury College. GWU administrators are "working to identify options to bring our students back to the United States," according to a statement from the university, but no plans have yet been made. Students have been instructed to avoid demonstrations and stay in contact with their parents.
Whether students are following those instructions is another story. Cory Ellis, who is in his first year of GWU's Middle East studies graduate program, told the GWU student newspaper, the Hatchet, that he went to some of the protests, camera in hand. Although Ellis watched the riots from a safe distance, he was temporarily incapacitated by tear gas, according to the Hatchet.
"I didn't come to Egypt to take classes. I can take classes at GW. I went 5,000 miles away from home to experience another part of the world and immerse myself in the culture," Ellis told the Hatchet. "I major in international affairs, so I want to experience international affairs. I didn't want to let the chance to witness history slip by me."
American University has 11 undergraduate students studying in Cairo, eight at AUC and three at AMIDEAST. Officials at those programs are currently working on plans to remove students from the area, said university spokeswoman Maralee Csellar.
University of Maryland, College Park, has seven students in Egypt. One is taking classes at AUC and is still in his dorm, awaiting travel arrangements. The other six are attending a program in Alexandria run by the American Councils for International Education. Some of the students were already out of the country traveling, and the others caught a flight to Dubai on Monday, said spokesman David Ottalini in an e-mail.
George Mason University has one student who was taking classes in Cairo. Officials expect that he will be home by Tuesday night, said spokesman Dan Walsch.
The University of Virginia has four undergraduate students studying at AUC, according to spokeswoman Carol Wood. Three of the students live in the dormitories and one lives in the city. All four are safe and in contact with their families, Wood said, and one has gone to the airport to try to leave the country.
College of William and Mary has one student who has been at the AUC for about a week, said spokesman Brian Whitson in an e-mail. "He is safe and currently at the airport awaiting evacuation by the State Department," Whitson said.
James Madison University has at least three students studying at AUC. Washington College has one senior who was taking classes at AUC and planned to catch a flight home Monday.