Learning Beyond Four Walls of a Classroom and Thousands of Miles from Home

Bassil Aggag, a fourth year marketing major, first stepped foot in the United States in 2016 as a participant in the University of Cincinnati’s (UC) International Summer Program. The program, which brings students from around the globe to UC, condenses three business-oriented courses into three weeks of classes, corporate visits, and cultural sight-seeing.

“There is so much to do and learn here,” says Aggag who visited UC from the Future University in Egypt (FUE). “I knew that I could improve myself here. To me, if I can adopt to learning in the U.S. I can succeed. I wanted to test myself.”

Aggag learned as much as he could during his three-week visit and returned to UC along with five other FUE students to take classes and “test himself” during the 2017 fall semester.

The partnership between UC and FUE, spearheaded by former Senior Vice President and Provost Tony Perzigian, began nearly five years ago.

"Engagement of the university with the global community provides diverse perspectives for faculty and students,” says Perzigian. “Achievement of the university’s goals depends on continually refreshing, diversifying, and expanding members of our vibrant intellectual community and the partnership with FUE provides an infusion of different perspectives at both institutions.”

Following retirement from UC in 2011, Perzigian worked with FUE leaders to establish an “academic review” agreement between the two universities. Each fall UC sends a team of faculty to review two-thirds of FUE’s academic programs and to provide recommendations on how to expand and strengthen the curricula. Additionally, each fall and spring UC professors travel to FUE to teach for one-week. UC is currently assisting FUE to earn program accreditation in engineering and business. The UC, FUE partnership is now expanding to included extended teaching opportunities for UC faculty. 

 Beginning in April, Brian Calfano, assistant professor of political science, will be one of the first faculty members to teach at FUE for six-weeks. Calfano visited FUE for a one-week site-visit this fall and is excited to return next semester.

“The partnership with FUE serves as a conduit for international and interdisciplinary learning, teaching and research,” says Calfano. “I think this partnership creates an opportunity to experience different ways of learning and doing and provides us, as faculty, a different perspective of the world. And that’s extremely important because I apply it to my teaching and instruction at UC.”

Bassil Aggag, fourth from right, plays soccer with members of the 2016 UC International Summer Program.

Bassil Aggag, fourth from right, plays soccer with members of the 2016 UC International Summer Program.

Aggag and his fellow FUE students Mahmoud Elmesayen, a fourth-year marketing major, and Khaled Elsaharty, a third-year accounting major who studied at UC this fall semester, understand first-hand the value of varying learning and teaching styles.

Elmesayen says the adjustment to learning in the U.S. was a difficult, but tremendous learning experience.“The teaching style is completely different here than in Egypt. In Egypt, learning is more discussion based and in the U.S. there seems to be more tests and projects."

"I love being here,” he adds. “The culture is different and the people are different. I love studying and living at UC.”

“There is a more organized way of living here, probably because of cultural and lifestyle differences,” says Elsaharty.

Calfano, like Aggag and his fellow FUE students, is looking forward to living and teaching in a new country and experiencing a new culture.

“The course I will be teaching at FUE will focus on how politics impacts perception. I think it will be quite interesting for the FUE students to learn about politics and perceptions in America and for me to learn how the Egyptian culture impacts political perceptions.”

Aggag,along with Elmesayen and Elsaharty, returned with their classmates to Egypt and FUE following exams in early December. He says his experiences at UC were tremendous, so much so that he plans to return.

“I would like to come back to UC to earn an MBA or a Master’s degree in Marketing. I want to be an entrepreneur and develop new innovative ideas. If I can do it in the U.S., I can do it anywhere.”

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