Seminars give global education

As a comparatively inexperienced and naïve freshman in the world of college, I entered my first class at USC on Aug. 18 — even though classes didn’t officially start until the 22nd.

Julia Vann | Daily Trojan

Absorbed in my own little world trying to get things organized before school started, I couldn’t have cared less about discussing politics.

New students such as myself, however, were given just that opportunity. USC’s microseminars were advertised as a way to experience class before the start of school. We all wondered whether they would be as fascinating as advertised.

Luckily for all of us, they were. They gave us the opportunity to take an hour to ponder events that are presently impactful beyond the USC bubble, a difference from the typical topics we study during the year.

But when I finally bucked the courage to attend my first class in the Von KleinSmid building, I discovered there was a seminar dubbed “Arab Spring or Arab Winter?” taught by the knowledgeable Dr. Laurie Brand, professor of international relations.

As a youthful Egyptian, the seminar really opened my eyes to the situation abroad, which made it a valuable experience as opposed to one that could be forgotten within a couple of days.

Being Arab can have its advantages, namely an ability to relate to an uprising happening a couple continents away.

My miserably wonderful summer in Egypt gave me the insight and the experience necessary to fully appreciate the two-day seminar.

It was interesting to see most of my classmates were either of Arab origin, or had spent time in the Middle East. Certainly the environment you grow up in has influences upon your interests.

Whether discussing Tunisia and the cowardice of Ben Ali or asking about Arabic roots, the lecture was a truly insightful experience.

Back in Egypt, hardly a day passed without some form of resentful expression regarding the revolution, especially the contrast in perceptions on the “revolution” between the lower-income Egyptian middle class the wealthier classes.

According to Brand, the modern uprisings are less of revolutions than revolts. Though there certainly exists a fair amount of violence in Cairo at this time, it is important to note that this does not constitute a complete overturning of the old regime.

Rather, if Egyptians are to proudly claim to be “revolutionaries,” one must see long term changes over time.

Yet there definitely is a sense of hope in the air for Egyptian youth. Though older generations are more pessimistic regarding the future because of their insistence that history will repeat itself, the younger generations feel more empowered and able to evoke change in these ever-turbulent times.

Ironically, while I was in Egypt, I felt more disconnected and hostile toward the revolt than when I was sitting in a classroom discussing it with my peers.

While experience is certainly a necessary part of any kind of growth, it is useless without reflection and the ability to share it with others.

It is uncommon for most people to think beyond the sphere of their immediate lives, much less ponder about Egypt’s political instability.

The first taste of my educational experience here at USC certainly gives me hope of a brighter future indeed — showing me that we will discuss and think critically about current global events.

Whether training freshmen to overcome the initial awkwardness of a new environment, or enlightening minds dulled by lazy summer days, the microseminars were certainly an experience.


Engie Salama is a freshman majoring in biochemistry and religion.