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Joyell Johnson

Joyell Johnson ‘10 caught the travel bug early, moving around a lot during her childhood as a self-described “military brat.” She always planned to study abroad, but as a psychology major with a minor in black studies, her options were limited. Joyell also wanted to go somewhere off the beaten path. “It seems like everyone goes to Europe and Australia for study abroad,” she said.

Fortunately for Joyell, Washington College recently began a partnership with the American University in Cairo, Egypt, which offered relevant courses taught in English. It seemed like the perfect fit for Joyell, who’d seen photos of her father at the pyramids but had always wanted to explore them for herself.

Because she was among the first students from the College to study abroad in Cairo, things didn’t run smoothly at first. The new dorms at the University were not completed by the time she was supposed to move in, so she and other students were housed in a military hotel about an hour away from the university campus.

“There were a lot of problems in the beginning and we had to do everything on our own, which was good because it makes you tougher and stronger,” Joyell said. “It was nice knowing we could contact Kelly Keer [WC’s Director of International Programs] if we needed something, because we didn’t have anyone over there to help.”

There were also cultural differences to overcome. “It’s difficult traveling alone where you don’t know the language, especially because I’d never really studied the Arab culture,” she explained. “Egypt is not really welcoming to foreigners. Harassment is worse over there, there’s a lot of racism, and as a woman, you can’t walk down the street by yourself.”

Living in Egypt had its advantages, such as cheap travel around the Middle East. Her housing was only 15 minutes from the pyramids, which she visited five times. A professor took her class to the Sphinx, where they had special, up-close access and the opportunity to go into the temple.

One of Joyell’s favorite experiences was horseback riding through the country at night with friends. “We got to race through the desert by the pyramids and have tea with the Bedouins,” she said. “I like the pyramids at night because they’re a huge shadow, and it’s the only place you can see the stars.”

Still, living in Cairo with 20 million other people helped Joyell realize she likes city life, and she plans to return to Africa after she gets a graduate degree in international law. For now, though, she’s glad to be back home. Joyell, who graduated from nearby Kent County High School, didn’t consider Washington College when she first began her college search. She reconsidered, and eventually became the first recipient for the Vincent Hynson scholarship for a local minority student.

“I’m glad I came here,” she said. “I thought I wanted a big school but I like being able to walk on campus at any time and see someone I know. I’m not just a number—people know my name and I feel like I belong.”

Campus Involvement

Q & A

Hometown and high school? I am an Army brat and attended Kent County High School in Chestertown

Favorite class? I loved all my classes with Dr. Alisha Knight because I was never bored and looking forward to attending every class. Dr. Knight challenges her students and forces them to pay close attention to little details, which has helped me in my other classes.

Recommended professor? Obviously Dr. Knight.

Most memorable experience as a first-year student? Probably Birthday Ball. I had so much fun and can still remember the majority of that night.

If you had a superpower, what would it be and why? I would like to be able to teleport because I don’t like to drive or ride in an airplane but I love to travel. Plus it can be expensive to see the entire world. If I could travel anywhere and at any time without driving or flying long distances would be perfect!