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This summer, 10 Rice University students traveled to Cairo to discuss topics including human rights, religion and the news media with their Egyptian counterparts at the American University in Cairo (AUC). The colloquium was the first for the Baker Institute's new student-led Public Diplomacy and Global Policymaking program.

Between group discussions, the students met with the president of AUC as well as with Nabil Fahmy, former Egyptian ambassador to the United States; visited the pyramids at Giza; rode camels across the desert; and toured the catacombs in Alexandria -- and discovered that some of the most illuminating conversations came during relaxed moments with their Egyptian hosts. A long bus trip led to a lively discussion about the pros and cons of online dating and arranged marriages.

"In one week I learned more than in my 30-day trip throughout countries in Europe, where I was confined to 20 American students," blogged rising sophomore Marc Sabbagh from an Internet café in Cairo. "This trip was on a new level because I was able to make friends and still question who they are and the way their country works."

The trip was organized by Sean Graham, Rice "10, and Tom Campbell, "11, who each blogged about their hopes and experiences on the Baker Institute Blog.

The students will publish a report on their trip in the fall.

"The Cairo trip is a great example of the Baker Institute"s efforts to engage students, the next generation of policymakers," said Ryan Kirksey, Baker Institute director of operations and finance. "We look forward to supporting many such trips in the future."