International Educator - November/December 2016 - 55

We watched a documentary on Sudanese
refugees in Cairo, covering history, politics,
social conditions, and current challenges.
The tough reality brought most of us to
tears, but one student was so agonized that
she refused to take part in the project. "I
can't listen to stories of trauma," she sobbed.
"I can't handle it." I was moved by her reaction, but how could she not participate?
The teacher in me worried about uniform
assessment and grading. No incentives or
persuasive tactics convinced this student,
and I eventually gave her an alternative
assignment: to work with another marginalized group, writing an individual's story that
she would submit for publication. She selected the Bedouins of Sinai and blossomed
as she spent weekends in the hilly desert,
listening to Bedouin narratives.
The rest of my students were busy at
work. We contacted AMERA-the Africa
and Middle Eastern Refugee Assistance
NGO-and invited the founder, Barbara
Harrell-Bond, and several refugees to our
class. We wanted to negotiate a partnership,
where both students and refugees were
learning something valuable while supporting each other. The meeting was exceptional.
"What do you know about the Sudan?" asked
one of the older guests. We didn't know
much: that it was in Africa, south of Egypt,
and had been in conflict for a long time. The
guest pulled a large map from his pocket
and unfolded it on the floor. One by one,
we slid off our seats and knelt beside him.
The geography, history, culture, politics, art,
and literature of the Sudan came to life as
he walked us through the territory. One by
one, the refugees opened up and introduced
themselves. One by one, our stereotypes
about refugees came crashing down. We
had assumed refugees would be poor and
uneducated. They were teachers, lawyers,
businessmen, students, landowners, and
farmers. They could be any one of us.

For the next couple of classes, we planned
the project more thoroughly. Some students
became concerned: "What if we hear stories
we can't handle?" "Are we allowed to cry?"
"What if they are too emotional?" "What if
I ask the wrong questions?" We contacted
our community partner, AMERA, and received coaching in conducting interviews
with people who had suffered loss, persecution, and violence. Students also took an
online training course on protecting human
subjects. The learning was invaluable.

Lasting Impacts
Students spent the semester composing stories with their partner refugees-selecting
pseudonyms, mapping story lines, adopting
voice, negotiating angle and word choice,
developing detail. They worked on and off
campus, occasionally sharing coffee and
snacks, visiting each other's homes, and
communicating through social media. Deep
friendships developed, with jokes and tears
and secrets. The students, the refugees, and
I grew in the process, and became ... well,
better human beings-more sensitive, more
empathic, and more refined.
As the stories took shape, we wrote a
book proposal for AUC Press. This was the
service we were offering: a publication that
brought the distant mass of people closer
and made visible their familiar human side.
I invited my colleague, Brooke Comer, to
engage her own students in a similar activity the following semester. The stories from
both classes would form the collection
for publication, edited by my best student
writer, Nora Eltahawy, as well as Brooke
and me. The book royalties would go to
AMERA, in support of refugee legal aid. In
2009, AUC Press published Voices in Refuge:
Stories from Sudanese Refugees in Cairo-
the press's first book written and edited by
undergraduate students. 
As I reflect on this activity, I know that
it was not without challenge: the constant
negotiation of a delicate partnership, the

breaking down of boundaries and stereotypes, my own uncertainty and parallel
learning, and the extended publication process, which culminated several semesters
after the students had graduated. But when
the students and refugees received the email with the published book link ... my, we
had a celebration!
As a teacher, I continue to celebrate my
CBL experiences. I have learned that keeping sight of course learning outcomes is key
to success. The best CBL experiences are
those with clear relationships to academic
goals; activities that are loosely relevant lose
their significance and appeal. I have also
learned that conversations with community partners need to be ongoing. They help
shape, refine, inform, and assess the activity
throughout the process. I have learned to listen attentively to students' comments and
to read between the lines of their reflective
writing. Their feedback suggests much to
address-ethical issues, confusions, learning
gaps, and personal fears and hesitations-
and enables the teacher to make the learning
significant for all. Finally, I have learned to
exchange pedagogical experiences with colleagues, and to maintain a connection with
the CBL office on campus. There is always
an opportunity to learn from others.
In fall 2008 I received an e-mail from a
former student. She needed advice on a book
proposal she was writing for a collection of
oral narratives on the Bedouins of Sinai. I still
cry when I remember that e-mail.
IE
AMANI ELSHIMI is director of undergraduate
research at the American University in Cairo.

This article originally appeared in Diversity &
Democracy, a publication of the Association of
American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).
Reprinted with permission from Diversity &
Democracy, Volume 19, Number 2. Copyright
2016 by the Association of American Colleges and
Universities.

N O V + D E C .16 INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of International Educator - November/December 2016

From the Editor
In Brief
Voices
Act Globally
Tradition and History
Health and Insurance
Education Abroad
International Enrollment
View From Out Here
In Focus
International Educator - November/December 2016 - Cover1
International Educator - November/December 2016 - Cover2
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 1
International Educator - November/December 2016 - From the Editor
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 3
International Educator - November/December 2016 - In Brief
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 5
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 6
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 7
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 8
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 9
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 10
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 11
International Educator - November/December 2016 - Voices
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 13
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 14
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 15
International Educator - November/December 2016 - Act Globally
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 17
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 18
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 19
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 20
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 21
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 22
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 23
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 24
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 25
International Educator - November/December 2016 - Tradition and History
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 27
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 28
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 29
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 30
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 31
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 32
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 33
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 34
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 35
International Educator - November/December 2016 - Health and Insurance
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 37
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 38
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 39
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 40
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 41
International Educator - November/December 2016 - Education Abroad
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 43
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 44
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 45
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 46
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 47
International Educator - November/December 2016 - International Enrollment
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 49
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 50
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 51
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 52
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 53
International Educator - November/December 2016 - View From Out Here
International Educator - November/December 2016 - 55
International Educator - November/December 2016 - In Focus
International Educator - November/December 2016 - Cover3
International Educator - November/December 2016 - Cover4
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