The turmoil in Egypt may have hit home for the 15 Georgetown students evacuated from their Cairo study abroad program on Monday, but for others spending time in the Middle East, the threat of wholesale geopolitical change has also dominated daily life.
"In every cab the radio is tuned to a news program that is talking about Egypt; every night and every morning I watch hours of Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya with my host family," said Sam Solomon (SFS '12), who is studying abroad in Amman, Jordan this term.
Jordan has also seen demonstrations in recent days, but experts as well as students in the region do not believe that they will become volatile. The country's protests have remained peaceful, and King Abdullah II met demonstrators' demands and replaced the country's prime minister Tuesday.
"The protests in Jordan are getting a disproportionate coverage because of the events in Egypt; larger protests occurred in 2004 and 2009 but those did not make a very big splash in the news," Solomon said in an email. "Furthermore, the protests in Jordan — as I understand them — have been peaceful and have not been calling for a revolution."
According to Solomon, that is not to say that there is no potential for more unrest.
"But who knows what could happen? No one expected the events in Tunisia or Egypt," Solomon said. He added, however, that he does not expect the riots to become violent.
The student's assessment matched that of Georgetown university, which sent an email to students alerting them of the situation and urging them to stay away from the protests.
"The situation in Egypt is unprecedented and worrying from the perspective of student safety and continuity of instruction for students seeking to study there this spring," CIEE Amman Resident Director Allison Hodgkins wrote in an email. "Jordan is not Egypt and I have no reason to predict that a full scale pursing or revolution is imminent here."
The crisis in Egypt is primarily affecting students' political dialogue, permeating everything from radio waves to conversations on the streets.
"The biggest effect that I have seen is that Egypt is constantly on the news, 24/7 coverage. Everyone is talking about it, and from what I can tell (with my limited understanding of Arabic), people in Jordan are supportive of the Egypt protesters," Rebecca Kissel (SFS '12), who is also in Amman, said in an email.
Jordan is not the only place affected, however. Following the successful revolution in Tunisia in mid-January, protests have also broken out in other Middle Eastern countries such as Yemen, Lebanon and Algeria.
"There are a lot of discussion ... about the possibility of a 'domino effect'. There is little doubt that Tunisia inspired the on-going protest and social uprising currently going on in Egypt as we speak," Wadhah Al Shugaa (SFS '12), who is currently studying at the School of Foreign Service in Qatar, said in an email. "If the 'people's revolution' in Egypt succeed, there is little doubt that that will inspire civil societies and grassroots activists across the Arab world to plan similar protests."
For students at the SFS campus in Qatar — where the Georgetown students from Egypt landed on Monday — there is no fear of the protests spreading to Doha itself, but the impact has been felt.
"In Qatar, the situation in Egypt seems so close. I was in Cairo only three weeks ago and would never have imagined the scenes I am seeing on the news now. Not only do the events seem physically closer from our vantage point in Doha, but many students at SFS-Q are from Egypt," Elisabeth Kent (SFS-Q '11) said. "When I hear about something like looting in the streets of Cairo, it's not just a news story. It's something that the families of my close friends are facing and living through."
The proximity has shaped students' impressions of the unfolding situation, according to Solomon.
"It's certainly affected my study abroad experience. It's one thing to witness big events in the Middle East from Washington, D.C.; it's quite another to witness them from an Arab country," Solomon said.
SFS-Q Student Affairs Officer Patrick Lenihan (COL '10) said the changes in the region have led to ramped-up political conversation on campus.
"SFS-Q has a natural affection for Middle Eastern politics, so between Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, the Sudan and Jordan, the professors are on the academic equivalent of a sugar high and the students more than a pixie stick behind," Lenihan said, adding that the developments have led to a "very educational beginning of semester."
Kent said that no matter if the Egyptian riots calm down or spur an overthrow of Mubarak, the future of the region hangs in the balance.
"There is no talk that these events would spread to Qatar. However, there is a general sense of instability and suspense about where the region is headed. I think all Arabs, including Qataris, are watching closely as these events unfold because they recognize that the Middle East of tomorrow may not be the Middle East that they have previously known."