TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After a three-day journey through four countries and five airports, Florida A&M University (FAMU) student Brittani Pope safely arrived in Chicago, Ill. on Thursday, February 3, from Cairo, Egypt where she was studying abroad at the American University.
Pope, 21, a fourth year professional MBA student with a minor in Arabic, was enjoying her international learning experience, along with hundreds of American students, who attend the American University each semester, before the protest against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had begun.
Pope had been in Egypt since the beginning of fall 2010 semester. She resided in a wealthy neighborhood called Dokki, which is ten minutes from downtown – the epicenter of the rioting – and an hour from her university.
“When it first started, we didn’t know the protesting was going to get so intense,” said Pope. “Suddenly, things began to escalate. People started clashing with the riot police. Stores began to close. A curfew was implemented for 6 p.m. then it was moved to 3 p.m. That is when it got dangerous; people began to break into stores.”
Pope and her roommate decided to stay home. The doorman to her building – to ensure their safety – did not allow the young ladies to leave, nor would he let visitors or unwanted guests inside.
“Random people would stop us if we were going to the store and ask if we were from the area,” said Pope. “They would say ‘maybe you should stay in, today is not a good day to be out’. The Egyptians are extremely helpful people. They would buy food for us to stay inside, and translate for us.”
Things grew extremely violent after President Mubarak cut off Internet and phone connection.
“I had no way to communicate with people to see what was going on or if they were ok,” said Pope.
The American students began to leave the country once the phone connection was reinstated. However, Pope was not ready to abandon her international experience. It wasn’t until she spoke with her brother, who encouraged her to go to Egypt after traveling there several times with the U.S. Army, that she considered returning.
When President Mubarak threatened to shut off the water supply, Pope knew at that moment it was time for her to leave. She contacted the U.S. State Department, who was providing emergency evacuations for U.S. citizens, and traveled to Istanbul, Turkey. From there she flew to Amsterdam, Netherlands then Atlanta, Ga., where she was stuck for 15 hours because of the blizzard, and finally back home in Chicago, Ill.
“Some of my American friends participated and were injured in the riots,” said Pope. “They took a huge risk by going to the frontline.”
Despite the cut-short abroad experience, the long journey back to the U.S. and days without communication with friends and loved ones, Pope is looking into her next study abroad adventure.
Pictures attached above.