MUNIR SAYEGH, International Recruiter, Saint Ambrose University, Iowa, U.S.A
2011-2012 U.S. Fulbright Student, Helwan University, Cairo, Egypt
As most things in life, experiences never end up the way you envisioned. Luckily for me, my Fulbright experience ended up being more than I could ever imagine.
I was a U.S. Fulbright student in 2011-2012 in Cairo, Egypt and researched Arabic calligraphy and typography. When I arrived, my Fulbright-appointed advisor, Dr. Moustafa Abdel Rahim, from Helwan University, Faculty of Applied Arts, connected me with Moustafa Emary, who is a world famous calligrapher. I always thought that my research would primarily be in a library pouring through books, but fortunately I was able to engage in a more dynamic version of academic research. Writing Arabic letters became my life for nine months. I learned the difference between a good Arabic letterform and a perfect Arabic letterform.
I was also afforded the opportunity to be the volunteer photographer for an organization in Egypt called “Coptic Orphans.” This non-profit NGO helps Coptic Egyptian children who do not have their mother or father or both.
The richest part of my experience was living with three Egyptian men from Beni Suef: Fady, John, and Fady (John’s brother), who lived and worked in Cairo, and we all lived together in a small apartment in Faisal, Giza. I learned how to be an Egyptian man from these three amazing individuals. They accepted me like a brother and we stay in contact to this day.
Through my experience living with my now close Egyptian friends, I was introduced to other people from their hometown and I visited them in Beni Suef, Egypt. Because of my contacts and strong relationship with Coptic Orphans NGO, I was asked to photograph other events for people, including an event for people with disabilities and a Coptic wedding. I also had the opportunity to go on a lot of amazing adventures around Egypt. Just a few of them include: photographing a color festival in Cairo; playing soccer with some kids in Fayoum; going to an Egyptian amusement park; attending an Egyptian birthday party; fishing in the Mediterranean sea; going to the very first monastery in the world, the Coptic Orthodox St. Anthony’s Monastery; and even camping in the White Desert. But, by far, the most fulfilling part of my Fulbright was the people I met and the relationships that were created.
Certainly the relationships that I made in Egypt will last me the rest of my life and I look forward to the next time I can lay my eyes on Egypt, “The Mother of the World.”
Because of the Fulbright experience, I am now working as an international recruiter for St. Ambrose University. I am able to travel the world and find the best international students who would like to come to the USA to study. I plan on going back to get my Masters or Ph.D. and I am very confident that my time as a Fulbrighter will aid me in my future academic research.
To view the videos put together by Mr. Sayegh about his time in Egypt, please visit: