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GEM Operations Director travels to Egypt for Gabr Fellowship

June 11, 2014

Sarah Derdowski, GEM’s Director of Operations, has returned from her trip to Egypt with the Shafik Gabr Fellowship and is now taking part in the second portion of the fellowship program within the United States (Washington D.C., Atlanta and New York).Sarah Derdowski
“I hope the Egyptians gain a better understanding of average Americans, of the economic hardships that the mass of American’s have felt,” Derdowski said. “I don’t think that image of America is widespread. I certainly was impacted by visiting Egypt and hope they have a better understanding of America, our political system, as well as what the average American’s priorities are.”
Launched in 2013 by the Shafik Gabr Foundation, the Fellowship is an innovative educational exchange created to foster greater understanding and cooperation among emerging leaders in Egypt and the U.S.
Derdowski’s group met with world-renowned public figures to explore transnational challenges and cultivate an appreciation of Egyptian & American societies. From May 10-24, the Fellows visited Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan, and enjoyed a cruise down the Nile.
“I learned people are people anywhere in the world,” Derdowski said. “(Egyptians) are trying to live and make a better life for themselves and their families. Regardless if you agree with how they live, do business, or their religion … Building the relationships with my fellow Fellows has shown me a different side of Egypt I would have never seen, because I met actual Egyptian people and got to ask the silly western questions, but also the really hard and controversial ones. It proves dialogue and relationships do lead to understanding.”

Sarah Derdowski (Right)The trip also gave Derdowski a better understanding of the complex diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Egypt.
“It is one based on solely on security rather than similar interests,” she quoted on of her Fellow’s Chase Bowman. “Egypt is the ‘friend’ that has a pool and you always want to go over and swim in, but you do not actually want to be real friend. This is not a real relationship, so we have many challenges we address.”

Derdowski is now traveling with the Fellows to New York, New Haven, Atlanta, Virginia, and Washington D.C. from June 7- 21.
“I am very much looking forward to hosting my Egyptian colleagues here in the U.S. and having them experience America,” she said. “No matter where you live or are from, you think about the world through that ego centric lens. I experienced that going to Egypt and thinking about our foreign policy there, and I will be interested to see how they feel coming to the U.S.”
As part of the Fellowship, Derdowski is required to work on an Action Project. She and another American are working with two Egyptians Fellows to expand on what Shafik Gabr has started: a move towards creating a Global Discourse Center.Sarah D 3
“The first step will be to host a conference that reaches ‘people’ rather than just academics and diplomats, although it hopes to incorporate that as well,” she said. “We hope to better incorporate interdisciplinary education to foster more understanding across cultures, sectors, industries, and countries.”
Derdowski said the conference will have a large component of art to it. “Specifically, we are partnering with another Action Project group and graffiti art exhibit. This is a fantastic way to portray cross disciplinary understanding of art and politics. People can come for the art, but will also be learning about the revolution and political system in Egypt to really understand it.”


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