My first job after college was a Presidential Internship in the journalism department at the American University in Cairo -- I was an arrogant self-entitled little monster coming out of an ivy league school and I didn't know anything about anything outside of my insular little northeastern American world. When I got the job in Egypt, I thought I'd be embarking on some kind of Indiana-Jones-slash-ultra-glamorous adventure, and I really didn't do much research on life in the Middle East. Seriously, I think my preparation entailed watching The English Patient five times the week before my flight.
So it's hardly a surprise that, in retrospect, I wasted a lot of time in Cairo not fully appreciating what I was lucky enough to experience. I was surrounded by all this beauty, but I was so caught up in minutiae of cultural solipsism and spent so much time complaining about things I can't even remember that I missed out on a lot of the great things I could have experienced. But the year wasn't completely wasted on me -- going to Egypt after college was precisely the baptism-into-the-world-by-fire (aka swift kick in my spoiled-American pants) that I really needed at the time and the year out changed my life. I can honestly say I wouldn't be nearly as happy as I am now, nor would I have ever been able to achieve half the things I have in the last ten years if I hadn't spent that year in Cairo.
This month the AUC downtown campus is moving to the new campus in Heliopolis (which they were in the process of building when I was working on the Greek Campus downtown). It makes me wistful and nostalgic that these physical buildings that were so important to a pivotal time in my life aren't going to be AUC anymore come September. Looking at these photos now, years after the fact, I can't believe that I was once lucky enough to work in such a marvelous place.