The American University in Cairo (AUC) welcomed yesterday nearly 1,000 undergraduate students and 140 study-abroad students from different countries including the United States, Sweden, Germany and England. Cut-off scores for incoming students were markedly higher this year compared to previous years, bringing in a highly selective group of students.
“AUC is one of the best universities in the Middle East, and I am really happy to be part of the incoming class,” said freshman Nour Maged, 18. “I want to study actuarial science, and AUC is one of the few universities in the region that offers programs in this field.”
Ibrahim El Naggar, 18, came all the way from the governorate of Tanta to study architecture at the University. “AUC is the best in Egypt, and being here will definitely increase my chances of traveling to pursue further studies abroad.”
For the past week, AUC campus has been bustling with activities for the incoming class, from orientation sessions designed to introduce students to academic and extracurricular life at the University to off-campus outings. During orientation week, newly admitted students were encouraged to ask questions, interact with their peers and get acquainted with University policies. Sessions for international students focused on different aspects of Egyptian culture and how to adapt to life in Egypt. For the first time, parents were also invited to join in some of the orientation sessions, and students were encouraged to take part in games and entertainment activities.
“AUC has many features that distinguish it from other institutions of higher education in Egypt, but above anything else, it is the type of education offered at AUC that sets it apart,” said Khaled Fahmy, professor and chair of AUC’s Department of History, during the opening ceremony of the First-Year Experience (FYE) program. Explaining what makes AUC special, Fahmy highlighted how the liberal arts education offered at the University allows students to think and read critically; express themselves clearly and persuasively in writing and in speech; and be imaginative, daring and responsible.
Fahmy also noted to students that the narrow set of professional skills they acquire through their majors is not their ticket to success. “The most important thing you will learn here is how to think,” he said. “For you to achieve excellence, you have to allow yourself the right to test the limits, go beyond the norms and respect but also challenge received wisdom.”
The Student Orientation Team, made up of more than 100 students from different majors and classes, played an important role in easing the transition for new students. “Peer leaders are the first to welcome new students,” said student Mohamed Khaled, head of the FYE training committee. “They are also role models who use their experience and knowledge of the University to guide freshmen during their first days at AUC.”
The Orientation Team, which received training throughout the summer, was divided into committees that handled different aspects of the weeklong event. The team was responsible for designing and preparing welcome packs; creating information stations; and placing guiding signs throughout campus. They also made phone calls to newly admitted students to welcome them to AUC and remind them of the orientation program dates.
In addition to peer leaders, faculty members played an important role during orientation, moderating interactive sessions on a variety of topics, from self-discovery, critical thinking and time management to AUC’s plethora of majors and liberal arts philosophy. “It is not the discipline or major that makes a particular degree a liberal arts one,” explained Fahmy. “Rather, it is the way you are educated and the skills you are expected to acquire while majoring in any discipline that are important. In order to make the most of the liberal arts experience offered by AUC, you have to allow yourself the right to dream. Allow yourself to dream to go where no one else has gone before you, to discover who you really are and how to achieve your fullest potential.”