The Safety of an Internship in the Middle East:
Many people considering an internship or studying abroad in the Middle East may have concerns about the safety of such a trip. The Middle East is very big however, so it is impossible to make generalisations about the whole region. While there are certainly countries and areas in the Middle East where travel would not be recommended currently, for example Syria, Yemen and some parts of Egypt, there are also other areas where students will be able to enjoy an internship in relative safety. Here are some steps you can take in order to ensure you have the safest internship and travel experience possible.
Step 1: Choose your country and area wisely
The most popular countries in the Middle East for studying abroad are Egypt, Jordan and The United Arab Emirates, although other possibilities could still be safe options. Connor, an intern at the Excellence Center in Hebron has interned in both Jordan and Palestine, and says that both felt “safe and relaxed”.
For the best and most up to date advice on safety in various countries, consult the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, or the US State Department’s websites. However, it is important to recognise that these websites look at the worst-case scenarios, and even European countries will have some risk of crime and terrorism. Inge, also a volunteer at the Excellence Center in Hebron says that in reality “Hebron felt a lot safer than what the websites had prepared me for”, and that he has mostly felt very safe, and found the Palestinian people extremely welcoming. It can be beneficial to talk to anyone you know who has travelled to any of the countries you are considering. If possible, talking to locals would also be useful to understand the day-to-day safety of the city, rather than just the events which make the news.
Step 2: Keep alert
Be smart about how you carry money, where you walk and who you talk to, especially if you are a woman. As a woman, it is probably best not to walk alone at night, but again this is just a precaution. Be aware of social norms and the religious culture of the region, to ensure that you do not offend. Keep up to date with the local political situation. Inge recommends that “you should not get involved in politics”, and you should use your “basic common sense” to keep safe.
Step 3: Try to learn the language
By understanding a bit of the local language, you will become more aware of what is going on around you and therefore safer. You will also probably be less likely to be ripped off by taxi drivers or tour guides who sometimes try to take advantage of foreign tourists. Connor says you should get to know your neighbours and colleagues, because “when you have connections to the community it keeps you safer”.
Studying and interning abroad can be a vital aspect of cultural exchange between countries. While some areas of the Middle East are certainly off limits to international students or volunteers, many areas are rich with opportunities to learn. If you keep alert, respectful and use your common sense, you will certainly be able to enjoy a safe internship in the Middle East.