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Women's Colleges Try to Sell Liberal Arts in Middle East

Women's Colleges Try to Sell Liberal Arts in Middle East

Five American women's colleges are taking their admissions presentations overseas — to the Middle East. School officials have been speaking with young women in Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

The appeal to Middle Eastern women is paradoxically natural and awkward. Single-sex education is the norm in the Middle East; however, liberal ideas espoused on traditionally free-thinking American female institutions do not find a home in the conservative region.

Middle Eastern women attending a "Sister" say they enjoy the invigorating political climate on campus. But, one thing did shock many at first — open displays of homosexual affection. One student said:

At the beginning, there were times when I’d have to close my eyes and say, "O.K., I’m at Mount Holyoke, and it’s different." But that lasted only a week or so, and now I have so many friends who are openly gay, and it makes no difference.

Ironically, the biggest challenge for the admissions officers isn't appeasing fears that the schools will be too wild, nor the opposite — convincing them that they are not nunneries. Instead, the schools must sell the value of a liberal arts education, as opposed to a professional degree. Do you think they can pull that off in the Middle East?

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