I’ve been thinking about writing a post about my application for a Master’s degree at Cairo University since I started the whole process, but I wanted to wait until I was accepted so I could write a complete story, instead of one with an open end. However, right now it seems like this application procedure will never end, so I decided to just start writing and see how this mess develops. What follows is a story about bureaucracy, procedures, two envelopes, naivety and bad luck. And maybe, just maybe, a happy end.
Back in May, after thinking long and hard about it all, I concluded that I might as well stay in Egypt and apply for a Master’s degree in Political Science at Cairo University. Some people told me I was stupid, others encouraged me to just try and see where it gets me. I embraced the latter ones, and went to the Student Affairs department for some information. They gave me a list of documents that I need to bring with me in order to apply, and told me to come back later. (Probably the other way around, as the first thing a university employee does when asked about anything, is saying: “Come back tomorrow.”)
After two months of working and saving for the tuition fees (GBP 2400, or the equivalent in Euros or US Dollars, in addition to the ‘normal’ Egyptian fees), I arrived in Cairo during Ramadan, at the beginning of August. Here’s when the naivety part comes in. Although many people had warned me of the non-productiveness of anyone, let alone university employees, during Ramadan, I thought someone would be able and willing to help me. I was wrong. The only department that was ‘working’, was the Supreme Council of Universities, which compares foreign degrees to the Egyptian education system in order to decide if the student is allowed to study at a certain faculty.
This mu3adla, or equation, appeared to be the most important step in the whole procedure, as people at the Student Affairs department kept telling me (which sounds logical, because they are not the ones involved in this step). After a few days, I had enough information to be able to upload the requested documents on the internet and pay by credit card.
I went back to the university, all optimistic because the application was relatively easy until now, to make sure my documents were received properly. Unfortunately, mister Shadi told me that I also had to hand in the original documents: “Of course, uploading copies of the original documents is not enough. Oh, and one more thing: the original copy of your degree certificate won’t be returned, so maybe it’s better to give us a legalized copy of the original.” There was also just one problem with my transcript of records: it lacked a stamp from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has offices all over Cairo especially for this purpose: stamping documents. Early in the morning I went to the office at Ahmed Orabi Street in Mohandiseen. The queue wasn’t that long, so after almost two hours it was my turn. Every single person before me, 191 in total, didn’t have a problem in getting his or her document stamped. They probably came prepared. My document, however, was not ready to be processed by the ministry because, as I could have known, it should be stamped by the Egyptian Embassy in the Netherlands first.
Of course, that poses no problem for me at all. I just call the embassy, tell them I’m going to send them a document, and that they have to send it back to me after stamping it. Only cost me LE 350 (plus EUR 35 for the stamp), but a Master’s degree at CU requires some sacrifices. The embassy received my precious mail, processed it, and sent it back. Now I only had to wait until my mail arrived…
This is the first part in an endless series of articles about applying at Cairo University.