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Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024


The uprisings in Egypt, along with similar demonstrations in Tunisia, Jordan and Yemen, have shaken the sociopolitical status quo in the Middle East. These revolts are, ostensibly, calls for reform and change in certain ‘corrupt’ governments; but the protests often become violent in nature. The five Middlebury students in attending the School Abroad in Alexandria witnessed this development firsthand.

On Saturday Jan. 29, criminals were released from Egyptian prisons and the looting, violence and fires broke out on the streets of Alexandria. The male students were sent to apartments and the women sent to dorms in an attempt to keep them safe. The situation was tense and perilous, but the ensuing effort to evacuate the students is a testament to the strength and scope of Middlebury’s network.

Middlebury’s original evacuation services, On Call International, are only redeemable when the State Department issues a statement for Americans to evacuate the country. The State Department did not issue said statement until well into the protests, so the administration’s initial plan proved ineffective. This problem reflects the company’s stringent policy and the State Department’s sluggishness more than poor choices on the part of the administration, however. We must applaud the administration for their effective and dedicated work in getting the students home.

Luckily, help came from our own when the outside company’s plan failed. Vice President of the Language Schools Michael Geisler and Dean of International Programs Jeffrey Cason promptly contacted Global Rescue — a company founded by a Middlebury alum — and agents showed up to secure the students’ location a mere three hours later.  Several Middlebury alumni were involved, including Liz Huntley ’08, the resident coordinator of the school in the Middle East, who did some heroic improvisation to ensure that students were transported safely and fed. Senator Patrick Leahy’s office also worked with the State Department to get the plane in.

The crisis in Egypt proves a potent reminder that “Middlebury” stands for much more than a prestigious liberal arts college in Vermont. Middlebury stands for our Schools Abroad, located in 14 countries across the globe. Middlebury includes a international graduate program in Monterey, Calif. and an English graduate program spanning from New Mexico, to England, right back to what we call Middlebury here in Vermont. And Middlebury stands for all the people who took part in one of these programs and make up our Middlebury network, a network that proved an invaluable asset when we needed to evacuate the program in Egypt. Many undergraduates who choose not to or are unable to go abroad may not feel a direct link to these schools. But especially with the events in Alexandria, we should embrace our schools abroad and language programs as a core part of Middlebury College. To think of our college as Middlebury, Vt. is to ignore the multifaceted character of our school. It should not take a violent uprising to make us cognizant of our college’s global connections.

It may be hard to think of Middlebury as such an expansive behemoth when we are snowed in here in Vermont. But, for now, you can live vicariously through the international experiences of others. Instead of scoffing at your friends trying to describe their times abroad, listen to their stories and learn about our students’ and school’s presence overseas. Whether this means attending events to promote your study abroad experience or submitting stunning photos, sharing your overseas experience is one way we can celebrate the global community we are part of as Middlebury students.