VOLUME 31, NUMBER 14 THURSDAY, December 2, 1999

Mideast is site of new program

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News Services Editor

For those who long to sleep beneath the desert stars of an antique land, the Bedouins await you in their spangled camp.

They really do!

In fact, an overnight stay in a Bedouin desert camp in Wadi Rum, where T.E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") was based during the Arab revolt, is just one of the many highlights of a new summer overseas program in Arabic languages and cultures sponsored by UB.

Mark Ashwill, director of the World Languages Institute (WLI), notes that the five-week program is the first summer study-abroad program offered by an American university that will take students and other interested parties to both Syria and Jordan.

The program, titled "Off the Beaten Track: A Summer Sojourn," will take place July 5 to Aug. 12 through the WLI and the Office of International Education.

Participants can earn six academic credits from UB, although a non-credit option also is available, while on a spectacular journey through bustling modern cities and ancient lands unfamiliar to all but a few Westerners.

The program will be administered in cooperation with AMIDEAST, a private, non-profit organization that promotes cooperation and understanding between Americans and the people of the Middle East and North Africa.

Ashwill calls it a unique opportunity to learn about Jordan, Syria and the Arab world in a wide variety of formal and informal settings that will include lectures, homestays and visits to spectacular ancient sites, as well as to the most famous Arabic bazaar in the Middle East.

"I expect that one of its best outcomes will be that it will dispel the perception, peddled by vehicles of American popular culture, that Arabs are principally rich sheiks, hooded terrorists, backward desert dwellers, anti-American or anti-Western," Ashwill says.

"The trip may well include personal audiences with prominent religious, cultural and governmental figures," he adds, "because Jordanian and Syrian authorities see in American students a special opportunity to make a lasting and positive impression."

He says students will find that while there are similarities between Middle Eastern Arab nations, there also is great diversity that translates into notable, and sometimes striking, social, political, economic and religious differences.

"This is one of the most intriguing travel-study programs we've ever offered," Ashwill says. "It will be a spectacular journey among people who will welcome us warmly and graciously and help us to become familiar not only with their ancient past, but with what to many is the 'unknown' Middle East of the new millennium."

Summer study-abroad programs in the Middle East typically involve Israel and Turkey and to a much-lesser extent, Jordan, Ashwill says. Syria, however, remains relatively unknown to Americans. Because of this fact and the quality and depth of this program, he notes that a number of queries from individuals at other universities and cities already have been fielded by his office.

Participation will be limited. The program, directed by Issa Roustum, a Syrian native and lecturer in Arabic in the WLI, is open to undergraduates and graduate students in good academic standing at UB and at other colleges and to faculty, K-12 teachers and friends of UB who are mature, patient, open-minded and adaptable. A keen interest in the Arab world also is desirable.

The price per participant is expected to be $3,000-$3,500, which will include round-trip airfare from the U.S., land travel, accommodations, lectures and some meals, although Ashwill said that in these nations food is very inexpensive, even in the finest restaurants.

For information, contact the WLI at 645-2292 or at ubwli@acsu.buffalo.edu or go to UB's Study Abroad Program Web site at http://www.buffalo.edu/studyabroad.

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