As the leader of the Egyptian army announced the coup of President Mohammed Morsi today, University of Michigan student Nikhil Nandigam watched the news with 25 other students in a Alexandria dorm.
They had been waiting all night for the statement to come. One Egyptian yelled: "al-Jaish! al-Jaish!," which means "the Army! the Army!"
"There is now a very celebratory atmosphere," said University of Michigan student Nikhil Nandigam, who is studying in Alexandria and talked to MLive via instant message as the announcement was made. "People are hugging each other and cheering."
As Egypt's military forced its president out of office today, students from Michigan universities have returned from study abroad trips in Egypt, while others remain waiting to leave.
Five students from Michigan State University studying in Egypt have left the country, while 13 University of Michigan students are throughout the country.
For the second time in 2 1/2 years of political upheaval, the powerful army removed the country's leader. But this time, it is ousting a democratically elected president, the first in Egypt's history — making the move potentially explosive.
Michigan State University had a few programs in Egypt this summer but recently canceled them, and the students have left in the past couple days. The students have either returned to the U.S. or are continuing their studies in other countries.
Eight other University of Michigan students remain at The American University in Cairo, though they have been ordered to stay in a dormitory. Nandigam is one of the two University of Michigan students in Alexandria as part of the Arabic Overseas Flagship Program for students at an advanced-level in Arabic who are seeking to reach professional proficiency. They are still in Alexandria and will leave on Friday to Morocco.
"The general atmosphere is that of excitement," Nandigam said. "This past Sunday was the main day of demonstrations -- and the atmosphere was described by many Egyptians as 'festive'. Many were out with their families, and there was a sense of unity among the people. You see a lot of Egyptian flags hanging from balconies, and in peoples' hands."
He said he feels safe in Alexandria and stays away from demonstrations.
"I feel very safe in the country, and keep away from large crowds," said Nandigam, a Grand Rapids native. "I also avoid any suspicious behavior such as taking pictures in public or of anything sensitive to military/religious/political interests."
Nandigam said American media claims are exaggerated.
"The American narrative seems to focus more on episodes of violence, rather than the communal and peaceful nature of the majority of the demonstrations we've seen in Alexandria."