KATHLEEN CAIN, Chair, Department of Psychology, Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania, U.S.A
2009-2010 U.S. Fulbright Scholar, Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt
In August 2009, I moved to Cairo with my husband, Karl Lorenz, and our 14-year-old triplet children to begin our Fulbright year. I’m a developmental psychologist at Gettysburg College, and I received a lecture-research grant to support an appointment at the Institute for Post-Graduate Childhood Studies at Ain Shams University. Karl, who is an archaeologist at Shippensburg University, received a research grant to support a ceramic analysis project sponsored by Cairo University. Our sons, Nick and Kieran, and our daughter, Maria, attended 9th grade at the American International School in Egypt.
When we began the year, Karl and I had only been in Egypt for a week previously. We had no idea what to expect, where our projects would take us, or where our children’s education would take them. We were welcomed with warmth, kindness, and professionalism by the Egyptian Fulbright staff. In mid-September, all of the new Fulbrighters attended a wonderful Iftar at the Citadel, where we feasted side by side with our new friends from the Fulbright Commission and were treated to terrific musical performances. That night was the first time we began to feel as if we “belonged” in Cairo and knew our way around a little bit.
At Ain Shams University, I taught practicing physicians who were in graduate programs preparing for specialization in children with special needs, co-supervised a doctoral dissertation and co-organized several workshops. I learned that doing my own research in Cairo would be difficult due to the strict regulations regarding research and human participants. The limitations could have been quite frustrating, but instead I was welcomed with open arms into several ongoing research projects with my institute colleagues. I worked especially closely with a project evaluating a program addressing the psychosocial needs of children with Type I diabetes. The members of the research team, led by a psychiatrist, Dr. Manal Omar, involved me in all aspects of the project and encouraged me to make substantive contributions. In the spring of 2010, I gave several talks at Ain Shams University, the American University in Cairo, and Cairo University.
Since my return to the United States in August 2010, so much of what I’ve done has been affected by my Fulbright experiences. I had had a four-year stint in full-time administration before receiving the grant, and the Fulbright year proved to be a stimulating and very helpful bridge by which I could re-launch my teaching and research. I’ve shared my experiences in Egypt in diverse settings and I’ve been part of a group of faculty that has helped to launch a new Middle East and Islamic Studies program at Gettysburg College. I developed a new first year seminar, The World’s Children, that draws on what I learned about children’s development in Cairo. In all of my classes, I include more international material, and whenever possible more Egyptian or Muslim world material, in the course content. I’ve begun a new research program on identity development in Muslim-American adolescents that stems from my experiences in Egypt. My experiences as a Fulbright scholar not only gave me a new intellectual passion, but also stimulated me to teach and conduct research in ways that are more interdisciplinary and more culturally inclusive.
While Karl was in Cairo, he worked with Dr. Abdel Nur El Din, Egyptology professor at Cairo University and former chair of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities. He also visited archaeological sites in the Nile Delta and met with members of Polish, German, French, and British archaeological teams to examine their ceramic collections. Karl’s ongoing project seeks to determine whether pottery style changes from four Delta sites reflect the nature and timing of the political unification of upper and lower Egypt under the first pharaohs over 5,000 years ago. In Spring of 2010, Karl gave a public presentation about his work at the American University in Cairo.
In August 2010, Karl resumed his teaching responsibilities at Shippensburg University, where he gave a public presentation to the campus community about his Fulbright experience. After the January 2011 revolution, Karl was contacted by local media to comment on his experiences in Egypt. He was interviewed for several TV and radio programs and offered Harrisburg-area viewers and listeners some context about the social and political factors leading up to the protests in Tahrir Square. In Spring 2012, Karl participated in a panel discussion on the Arab Spring with other scholars specializing in the Middle East and North Africa at Messiah College. A few weeks later, he presented preliminary results from his Fulbright research project at the annual meeting of the American Research Center of Egypt. Karl’s Fulbright experience influenced his teaching as well as his ongoing research. He has incorporated more Middle Eastern and North African content into his cultural anthropology and archaeology courses, and inspired by his experiences in Egypt, he is proposing a new course on the rise of ancient states worldwide.
Our children initially found the transition to high school in Cairo difficult, but they made good friends, adjusted well academically, and began to really enjoy the various Fulbright outings as well as our family explorations. After they came home, they felt very connected to the 2011 revolution as they watched it unfold through their Egyptian friends’ Facebook posts. They have continued to process their experiences, and now they all say that they are glad to have had the opportunity to live in Cairo. Cairo made them stronger and more open-minded. All three are planning to study abroad during college.
Overall, the Fulbright year was rich in new experiences and new learning for our whole family. Since we’ve come home, we’ve realized how deeply formative the year was for all of us. We are often contacted by people considering applying for Fulbright grants who have questions about their family situations. We always encourage them to apply – for the whole year if possible – and to bring their families. We can’t imagine a better way to maximize the mutual understanding goal of the Fulbright program. A colleague told me once that applying for a Fulbright grant means that you are willing to open yourself to change. What we didn’t know was that the change would keep unfolding and surprising us even years after we returned to the United States. Our Fulbright year has shaped Karl and me deeply as scholars and teachers and turned our whole family into passionate global citizens.