Jubilation may be in order now that President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt has stepped down, but developments over the next 12 months are crucial to the country's long-term well-being.
Mohamed Zakarya, senior biology major, is a UW-Green Bay student from Minia, Egypt, two hours south of Cairo.
"What it means for Egyptians as a whole is we have been liberated from a dictator," Zakarya said. "For me, I can say the game is over that Mubarak has been playing for years."
Zakarya first attended a local Egyptian school, the School of Medicine at Minia University, but came to America after he met his American wife in Egypt. He first lived in Appleton while completing his international requirements for one and a half years and commuted to UWGB for a semester. He then moved to Green Bay and is now in his fourth semester.
He said the culture shock was huge at first, but he has enjoyed his experience here so far and finds the staff very helpful.
Zakarya explained that since he grew up in Egypt and lived there for more than 20 years, Mubarak is all he knew, and people got accustomed to his policies. He said he wishes he could experience the current situation with his family, but is supporting them from here.
"Development and improvement need to happen," Zakarya said. "The gang that existed around Mubarak has been robbing the country of its resources for years."
He said many of those in league with Mubarak are either being investigated or are already in jail.
Zakarya stays in regular contact with his family and friends in Egypt and speaks with them at least every other day.
He said he could feel the effect of the protests here in America, but that not everything he is hearing is true.
"America, as a whole, is very behind the media," Zakarya said. "Only about 50 percent of the facts I'm hearing are true. People should get out and do their own investigating rather than blindly following the media."
Zakarya hopes the hole caused by Mubarak's resignation will be filled soon. He feels whoever comes after Mubarak will be better.
"Mubarak was a good U.S. ally, but neglected his own people," Zakarya said.
He said he hopes the new government will balance issues of international relations with the needs of the Egyptian people.
"The Egyptian government has called for democracy in other countries, but not in Egypt," Zakarya said.
Zakarya explained the army of Egypt, which sides with the people, is more than 500,000, but the security group defending the system is more than a million, creating a huge imbalance.
Zakarya was involved with an open forum at UWGB Feb. 2, in which nearly 150 people attended, to address the recent events in the Middle East.
Katia Levintova, professor of public and environmental affairs, was the moderator of the forum, sponsored by UWGB's Center for Middle East Studies and Partnerships. Panelists included visiting scholar Salameh Naimat, professor of history and dean of students at the University of Jordan, Zakarya and Saeed Dahroug, another Egyptian student at UWGB.
Both students agreed with the general consensus that corruption has plagued the government in their homeland for decades. They also noted that in spite of Mubarak's announcement that he will step down, many are concerned he may try to retain power. The students said the support of the American people is important to the success of the demonstrations.
Jill White, assistant professor of human development and chair of anthropology, explained the panel was important because students need to know what is going on around the world and have their questions answered.
"It is important for students to be exposed to many cultures and political societies," White said.
White feels the events in Egypt have been an eye-opener, at least for Wisconsinites. While many are drawing parallels between the situation in Egypt and the political struggle in Wisconsin, White said they are very different situations, but we can learn from each other.
"I think the protestors in Wisconsin have really been using Egypt as an inspiration," White said. "It has reminded us we can stand up for our rights."
White met Zakarya at Arabic conversation tables and has since worked with him through the Center of Middle East Studies and Partnerships as well as a community interfaith group, planning activities such as a trip to the Mosque on Velp Avenue in Green Bay.
She said Zakarya has been helpful in translating for a trip that White and Heidi Sherman, professor of humanistic studies, are planning with a group of UWGB students to Jordan.
Zakarya is also involved with the Green Bay Center for Learning and Literacy to improve the everyday workplace and the Islamic Society for Wisconsin, where he works to build bridges between cultures and spread knowledge of diversity and togetherness.
Zakarya said he is always willing to answer questions related to the Middle East culture and Islam. He and White agree the mid-Eastern cultures are mysterious to many Americans and encourage everyone to learn about other cultures.
Zakarya will be graduating in December 2011 and preparing for medical school. He is hoping to attend UW-Madison or at least stay in Wisconsin.