Morgan Kellman ’11: A Semester in Egypt
By Timothy Russell
“Egypt is a completely different world,”says Morgan Kellman ’11, who spent the fall 2009 semester studying abroad in Cairo, Egypt. “From my time at Trinity, I thought I knew what city life was like, but in Cairo I was one of almost eight million people – it was definitely a learning experience.”
An affable and gregarious junior in Trinity’s College of Arts and Sciences, Kellman found life in Egypt both educational and thrilling. “The best lesson learned from my travels abroad is the importance of stepping out of my comfort zone. I was able to try so many different things that both excited and frightened me, and all of them made me a better person.”
Before her semester abroad, Kellman studied Arabic at Trinity, which she says influenced her selection of Cairo as her host city. Although her roommate and fellow study abroad students spoke English, Kellman had plenty of opportunities to use her Arabic skills and improve her fluency in the language. Among the most demanding were her trips to “the Khan” – the students’ name for the Kahn el-Khalili Bazaar, the largest market in Egypt. According to Kellman, “the bazaar was one of the best ways to practice my language skills because I not only had to know what I wanted to say, but I had to listen and understand what the clerks were asking me at the same time.”
In another linguistically-challenging adventure, Kellman joined her fellow study abroad students in a live play performed entirely in Arabic. In her role as the mother of a son who wants to travel to the major Egyptian city of Alexandria, Kellman’s language skills were literally put on center stage.
Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Carlota Ocampo, believes that Kellman’s time in Egypt will reinforce and expand on her Trinity studies. “She is an example of a student who really took advantage of her educational opportunities to broaden her knowledge base and experience,” says Ocampo.
Beyond the immersion-learning offered by an Arabic-speaking country, Kellman also took lessons from the people and landscape of Egypt. In addition to climbing Mt. Sinai, and a requisite tour of the Great Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza – “one of the most incredible experiences of my life,” she enthuses – Kellman learned about the lives and traditions of the Egyptian people. “Egyptians treat all people with respect,” she says. “They were the best hosts I have ever had. For them, family is the most important part of life.” For the five months that she was in the country, Kellman says she felt a part of that extended family.
Another extended family played a role in Kellman’s travels; while in Cairo she lunched with Shirley Jackewicz Johnston ’72, who lives abroad and was also traveling in the area. “All my friends were jealous that I was able to make a connection while in Cairo,” says Kellman. “In the future, I would definitely like to be as accomplished as [Johnston], with the opportunity to meet other Trinity women in their travels.”
A major step towards that goal will be a bachelor’s degree in political science, which Kellman is on track to receive next year. While unsure about her exact post-Trinity plans, she can see herself joining the Peace Corps or attending graduate school abroad to further her experience outside the US. According to Kellman, an informed worldview – in addition to her Trinity education – will be of great use when she eventually pursues a career in politics. “It is important to understand how the rest of the world works before we can begin to change our little piece of it for the better.”
Asked about the importance of international study, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Elizabeth Child, fondly recalls her own study abroad experience – a year in France, where she became fluent in French and picked up some Italian as well. She also learned to feel “very much at home in countries other than the U.S.” Child says that Kellman has “brought back many stories of her own adventures, as well as a new breadth of knowledge in her discipline. With her outgoing personality, her willingness to try new things, her Trinity education in critical inquiry and appreciation of diversity, Morgan truly represents the Trinity woman and we are very proud to have her as an ambassador for Trinity abroad.”