A sense of foreboding followed Adelphi University students Kristal Cotto, Zakeeyah Khan and Frank Smith as they toured streets, temples and monuments of Egypt last month - days before the country erupted in a burst of political change.
"There was police everywhere," Smith, 23, a history major, said of the capital, Cairo. "I began to think that perhaps all these security forces weren't designed for my benefit, but rather to protect the state from its own people."
The three students shared their observations with about 100 people on the Garden City campus Tuesday. The trio ended their study abroad program with Adelphi sociology professor Lina Beydoun late last month, shortly before protests in Tahrir Square set the stage for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation.
Haroon Moghul, executive director of the Maydan Institute, which promotes understanding of Islam, predicted Egypt will be a society that is neither a religious extreme, like Iran, nor a secular extreme, like Mubarak's Egypt. "It will probably be somewhat socialist because Egypt has a very strong and very powerful labor tradition . . . And it will be a system where religious parties and secular parties sit at a table and hash out a constant and ongoing compromise," Moghul told the gathering.
Khan, 21, a psychology and English major and a member of the school's Amnesty International chapter, said she was happy a groundswell upended Mubarak's administration, often cited for human rights abuses and infringing on constitutional rights.
"I didn't think there'd be a revolution after we left," she said, adding she'd observed people her age using the Internet to gather and organize despite government efforts to stop them.
Cotto, 21, an accounting major, spoke about what she learned about genealogy of the Egyptian gods, for whom the pharaohs built temples. Cotto said Mubarak's 29-year reign had prompted many in Egypt to say he was "like a pharaoh."