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Junior participates in Middle East Studies Program

Huntington, Ind.-Elizabeth Holtrop, a junior political studies major at Huntington University, is spending a semester in Cairo, Egypt, as part of the Middle East Studies Program. Through this program, Holtrop is gaining exposure to Egyptian and Middle Eastern culture in a variety of ways.

"Dr. David Holt, the Middle East Studies Program director, makes every effort to expose us to Middle Eastern culture in various ways," explained Holtrop, a native of Huntington, Ind. "For instance, during orientation week, we attended a mosque service and followed it up with a discussion about the ethics of attending an Islamic religious service as Christians. This week, we are participating in home stays, during which we spend our evenings and nights with Egyptian families in Cairo. This gives us a really immediate, hands-on viewpoint of many different aspects of Middle Eastern life."

Holtrop riding camels at the pyramids in Giza with other Middle East Studies Program students, Melissa, Hannah, Sarah, and Katy-Lee
Besides being immersed in the culture, Holtrop also is attending four classes through a program with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. She says that taking classes in Cairo is different than taking classes at Huntington because most are centered around guest lectures and reading on her own. For the first half of the semester, she will take classes, while the last half will be spent traveling to places such as Turkey, Israel, Jordan and Syria.

Another difference is the classroom atmosphere. Instead of a lecture hall, Holtrop's classes are based in a residential neighborhood and held in a renovated house.

Holtrop at the temple of the oracle near Siwa, Egypt. This is where Alexander the Great was supposedly told that he was divine.
"It's sometimes hard for me to adjust to this different type of schedule for a semester," said Holtrop of the learning experience thus far. "But I really love it as well, and I think it takes the best advantage of our time and the resources available to us while we're here.

While Holtrop has been getting acquainted with the culture, she has already gained insight to what she believes will be her biggest obstacles for the remainder of her trip.

"To accept the hospitality of this Muslim-oriented culture while retaining what I think are the core values of my own religion, my political opinions, and my Western-slanted worldview in general could summarize my struggles for this coming semester," expressed Holtrop.

After spending time away, Holtrop knows that she will return to the United States a changed person, with a broader worldview and a deeper understanding of global context that she can apply not only to her studies, but her whole life back at Huntington.

"This has been a fabulous experience for me," said Holtrop. "I feel that God has led all of the students in our group here for a specific reason. The reasons are different for each, but for me, I know that living in the Middle East has radically changed my worldview already."

Holtrop will return April 26.