Students on the Pembroke-King’s Programme are rarely ready to leave at the end of the course, but few come back for a second year. Ali Ezzat from the American University in Cairo is an exception to that rule. We spoke to him before the end of his second PKP.
What made you want to come to PKP in the first place?
I saw a post in the AUC facebook group about being able to come do Cambridge-style courses in Cambridge. I enjoyed it so much and learnt so much that I decided to come for a second time. Compared to other summer programmes, it is also that it gives me 9 credits whereas other programmes only give me 6 so economically, this was the wiser decision.
What courses have you taken?
Last year I took Introduction to English Common Law, Western National Security: Twenty First Century Global Challenges, and Understanding World Politics: A Critical Overview of Core Issues and Theories.
This year my modules were International Law/War(fare) and Revolutions of the Mind: Political Thinking in Britain from Hobbes to Mill which are requirements of my Political Science major, and Crime and Criminal Justice, which is something I’m taking for my minor in Sociology.
What is it about PKP that won you over?
I was blown away by the city. I fell in love with it the first time. The entire atmosphere, I thought it was going to be very stuffy and quite strict but it’s really fun, and I can do lots of unique activities that I can’t really do back home, like punting and playing cricket. I enjoy the night life here, although it’s not quite like Amsterdam or Edinburgh it’s still pretty fun. Honestly I enjoyed meeting people from all different backgrounds and various different cultures. Learning about how they live their lives, how they learn and discover different aspects of their culture. Also one thing that I’ve learnt over the past two summers is that no matter where people are from, we are all fundamentally the same; we all spend our weekends with our families or we hang out with our friends that we’ve known since school. Getting to talk to people who don’t have the same experiences but who are similar, it touches something in your humanity almost, to know the connection is there.
When you went back to Cairo, did you notice there was a big difference going back?
When I went back to Cairo, I felt like I was in culture shock for almost a month. Cambridge is a sleepy, rural city and Cairo is this big, urban area. I forgot how to cross the street in Cairo because there aren’t proper crossings and I spent the first two weeks almost getting run over by cars. I also missed the multi-cultural nature of Cambridge. Egypt is quite a homogenous society, everyone you meet speaks the same language, and gets the same references but the challenge here to talk to people who don’t have those experiences is so nice.
How did it feel to return to Cambridge?
It felt like when I returned that the past nine months when I was in school in Egypt, that I had just been on holiday and that I came here to resume my academic studies. I was also surprised by how much I remembered about the city, such as where the supermarkets are or the food.
Last year I was also more worried about how the professors would grade us, but this year I’m a lot more relaxed. I don’t feel the same need to spend every night in the library so I’ve tried to have as much fun as I can this year. Although International Law was a very demanding course so I didn’t get to travel as much as I would have liked during the first module.
I found it easier to talk to people this year. The first year I found it more difficult to break the ice; one of the PAs had to encourage me to make friends because I was scared that if I asked anyone anything I might insult them. But I’ve discovered people aren’t as sensitive as I think they will be.
What will you take away with you?
That I should read a lot more; Cambridge reading lists are longer than at my home university. I guess, also that this has inspired me to travel a lot more. I’ve met a lot of people from Asia and I have always wanted to do a round trip there and in the past few years I felt more encouraged to do that. I also have the inspiration to work harder towards what I want because everyone I’ve met here is so driven and that really inspires me. Definitely as well, I want to be more sociable.