Kyleen Burke, 20, was studying abroad in Egypt when the...

Kyleen Burke, 20, was studying abroad in Egypt when the protests broke out. Credit: Handout

Caught up in the chaos in Cairo, Port Jefferson's Kyleen Burke, 20, told her parents Sunday that she's smelled a few whiffs of tear gas and heard what sounded like firecrackers, too.

The college student has been studying in Egypt since Jan. 11 as a junior in the Middle East program run by Gordon College in Wenham, Mass. She reached her parents by phone Sunday for the first time since Wednesday.

"She was very reassuring," said her father, Jim Burke, 51. "She's trying to reassure us that she's fine."

The U.S. State Department Sunday authorized the departure of dependents of U.S. Embassy and consular officials and nonemergency employees, and issued a travel warning recommending that Americans avoid travel to Egypt.

Kyleen Burke, one of about 35 students from her school in Egypt, is scheduled to take a flight Tuesday to Istanbul, where she will continue her studies, her father said. The semester ends in April.

Her father said he heard from Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who called the State Department.

Kyleen Burke, who was returning to Cairo from a field trip to Luxor, told her parents that she and the other students spent the night in the Cairo train station under military protection.

She texted her parents early Sunday.

She said she feels "very safe, is totally fine . . . and she said the people have been very supportive and very apologetic that they had to go through this."

Burke and his wife, Maureen, lost contact with their daughter Wednesday. "She was thrilled to go and she was having a great experience and in her view, she still is," he said.

Erik R. Seiffert, an associate professor in the department of anatomical sciences at Stony Brook University, who does field work in Egypt, was last in the country three months ago. He said he spoke Saturday to a colleague living in Mansoura, where there were protests not covered in the media.

"He is completely dependent on his cell phone for news . . . so I was actually able to update him on some of the most recent events in Cairo," Seiffert said.

A group of Adelphi University students had returned recently from a study abroad program in Egypt but departed on schedule just days before the unrest. Student Julie Rapinat, of Baldwin, returned Jan. 21 with about 30 fellow students. She said the group spent time in Cairo but also traveled throughout the country.

"I never really felt at risk or uncomfortable," said Rapinat, 21. "I came back last Friday and . . . I didn't expect it to happen four days after I returned to be in such upheaval over there."

With Tom Brune and Reid J. Epstein

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