Tabor College student preparing for ?life-changing experience? in Egypt


Rebekah Paulus: ?This semester will change me due to the relationships I?ll build with the Muslim women.?

Beyond the ancient remnants of the pyramids at Giza and the Great Sphinx in Cairo, the people of modern-day Egypt exist in a middle ground between their Islamic faith and technological progress, and in the midst of the seemingly endless turmoil of the Middle East.

This is the setting into which Tabor College junior Rebekah Paulus will travel Jan. 13 as a participant in the Best Semester Middle East Studies Program offered by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

She can?t wait to get there.

Paulus said she has a heart for people living in the Middle East, especially the women, and looks forward to forging relationships with them.

She will live in furnished apartments with her peers for the majority of the semester, but at some point will stay with a Muslim family for an entire week to experience Egyptian life, language, and hospitality.

?This semester will change me due to the relationships I?ll build with the Muslim women,? Paulus said.

She said engaging a pluralistic culture and stepping out of her comfort zone will be a life-transforming experience; she expects to be a different person by the time she arrives back in the United States on April 29.

Best Semester?s study abroad programs are designed to ?prepare students to live the Christian life in a world that is religiously and culturally pluralistic.?

Paulus, who was born to an Air Force master sergeant and his wife in Taif, Saudi Arabia, less than 100 miles from the Islamic holy city of Mecca, said she has always felt a connection to the Middle East and its people.

As a freshman at Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., this interest grew as she declared an intercultural studies major with a focus on Islam. It was at Biola that Paulus first heard of the possibility of studying for a semester in the Middle East through CCCU?s Best Semester Program.

The following year, Paulus began looking into transferring to Tabor College, a school three of her siblings had attended and one is presently attending.

These connections influenced Paulus to transfer. After discussing her goals and interests with her advisor, Aleen Ratzlaff, associate professor of communications, Paulus opted to pursue a dual major of communications and international studies.

Through all these changes, Paulus never lost sight of her goal of studying in the Middle East. The Middle East Studies Program in Cairo equips students to do that.

Those enrolled in the program will take classes focusing on Arabic, Islam, the people and cultures, and conflict and change in the region. These classes will substitute for courses required for Paulus to finish her international studies degree at Tabor.

Academic learning is just one aspect of the experience.

?I want to learn and get to know the people,? Paulus said.

Many Middle Eastern countries are populated by people who tend to have anti-Western sentiments. On the other hand, Egypt is generally considered to be fairly open to Western people and ideas.

?There is some conflict, but it is not as hostile as other Middle Eastern countries,? Paulus said.

Depending on the safety conditions at the time, students may also travel to Israel, Palestine, Syria, and Jordan, as well as to various historically significant locations in Egypt.

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