The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Mac students on the revolution in Tunisia

By Max Loos

For the people of Tunisia, Dec. 18 will be known for years as the beginning of a protest movement that overthrew a dictator. For a few Macalester students, it was also the day that their study abroad plans had to change. The December-January revolution in the small North African nation of Tunisia – dubbed the “Jasmine Revolution” by Western media – overthrew one of the most entrenched autocratic regimes in the region, sending out shockwaves and inspiring similar movements, like the current antigovernment protests in Egypt.

The three Macalester students planning to study abroad in Tunisia in the Spring, though, had to scramble to make new plans after the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for the country.

Ingrid Jans ’12 was one of those students, and her plans are still not totally certain.

“It is really inconvenient timing,” she joked. “We’re going to see what happens and how things develop.”

The plan, for now, is for Jans to begin her program in Rabat, Morocco, and hopefully move to Tunisia once it is deemed safe by the State Department. Switching countries at the last minute, though, is somewhat daunting.

“Am I prepared to go to Morocco? to me in a month or two,” Jans said.

According to Study Abroad Coordinator Paul Nelson, Macalester College policy does not allow students to study abroad in countries or regions of countries for which the U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning.

He said that Macalester students have recently run into travel warnings for Bolivia, Madagascar and Cameroon, although all were issued while students were already in the countries, and they were able to ride them out “without incident.”

“So far, the policy has worked well, and we have avoided serious problems. Let us hope that good fortune continues,” Nelson said.

Tunisia has been a popular study-abroad destination for Macalester students – over the past several semesters, at least one Mac student has gone on the SIT program in the country, and in the spring 2010 semester, Macalester students made up three of the seven students on the program.

Nathan Fredrickson ’11, who studied abroad on the SIT Tunisia program last spring, has been following the events in Tunisia as closely as possible over the last few weeks. For him, it has been a “surreal” experience – once-familiar streets now look like war-zones in the news.

Although he has been worried for the safety of friends he met while studying abroad in the country, Fredrickson expressed hope for Tunisia.

“It appears that this moment is indicative of a huge shift in North African identity.I feel a cautious optimism,” he said.

Fredrickson said he would be interested to see what the curriculum for the Tunisia program looks like now.

Academic Director of SIT Tunisia, Mounir Khelifa expects the program to respond heavily to the recent changes in the country.

“I envisage SIT in Tunisia to explain the advent or explore the possibility of a modern western-style democracy in the Arab regions,” he said.

Khelifa also expects interest in the country as a study abroad destination to increase, now that it has been at the center of a global media event.

Fredrickson admitted to a small amount of envy for students who will get to study abroad in the “new” Tunisia.

“I think that students studying abroad there are going to be able to physically see the changing focus of the identity of the various peoples of [North Africa] in a way that I was personally not able to see” because of the authoritarian government, he said.

Then again, Fredrickson added, perhaps now he has a reason to go back.

Jans was also quick to point out the upside of her new arrangements.

“I might be able to study in two countries,” she said.

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