Hosni Mubarak stepped down from Egypt’s presidency today, after 18 days of protests that took over Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
Many Egyptians studying in the U.S. found out about Mubarak’s departure through international media, just like their American classmates. But for the Egyptian students, emotions likely ran much higher. Old Dominion University student Moustafa Aly told WVEC:
The president stepped down. I was like ‘Oh My God’ I can’t believe it. And then like I was looking for sources. And then when the BBC found out and then CNN and then the people were like shouting in the streets and on Twitter and Facebook, I was like screaming.
Over the past few weeks, Egyptian students in the U.S. have followed the historic events through news reports, Facebook updates by friends and family, and phone calls back home. At some points the Egyptian government shut down internet access and limited mobile connectivity, making communication difficult.
VOA intern Ahmed El-Selawy told me earlier in the month that he felt he was missing history and found it hard to believe what was going on in his own country.
Because here when I see the news and what’s going on, I feel like I’m an outsider. Even when I talk with my Egyptian friends here in the US, the way we see it, we just don’t believe it.
We made some jokes about it because we don’t know how to comprehend that this is going on in our country. When we see tanks in Tahrir Square, in our streets, and what’s going on, we feel like, wow, that’s not happening. It looks like a Hollywood movie or something.
But being far away didn’t stop him from worrying about friends and family back home. In fact, Ahmed said he was more worried because he didn’t know the truth of the situation and didn’t trust his mother when she said everything was fine.
USC graduate student Mohamed Saleh told The Madeleine Brand Show of the protests, and his wife:
So on the one hand I feel really happy and proud of my people and their courage to say no to this regime. And at the same time I’m worried. I’m worried about her and I’m worried about my family…
At the University of Ottawa, in Canada, some Egyptian students told the Commerce Times that the stress of the situation was affecting their schoolwork, and professors talked about making accommodations for students from Egypt and other countries experiencing protests. Ottawa student Nora Sultan said:
This is the happiest moment of my life, but I also need to be relieved from all this stress and focus on my upcoming midterms.
Though Mubarak’s departure means that one period of anxiety and uncertainty is over, another one is likely just beginning. No one knows what will happen next in Egypt, or what it will mean for the futures of students who came to the U.S. to prepare for jobs back home. As Ahmed told me at the start of February:
I don’t know the impact of this uprising on the economy yet, but I have a feeling it’s not going to be so good. The employment opportunities will be less – much much less.
And I wanted to work with the government, actually. I wanted to work with the foreign affairs for my country. So I’m not sure how this will happen, how things will go.
It’s a very unpredictable situation, but let’s just hope for the best. Let’s hope when I go back home in May everything will be stable and my Egypt will be back again.