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Alumnus embarks on overseas teaching adventure

One of Derek Brown’s personal goals for 2014 was simple: receive a passport and travel outside the United States for the first time. Not long after securing his passport, the 2006 College of Idaho graduate accepted an offer to teach abroad for two years at Cairo American College in Egypt.

“I never knew that my first time leaving the country would also be my first time moving out of it,” Brown said. “But I actually feel pretty comfortable living here. It’s been one heck of a blessing.”

A native of Las Vegas, Brown returned to his hometown after graduating from the C of I with a degree in psychology. He considered pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, but ultimately was drawn into education and worked as a substitute teacher in Las Vegas while earning his teaching certification.

Once certified, Brown considered the possibility of teaching abroad and interviewed for a teaching position in Thailand. He hadn’t considered Cairo as an option until Cairo American College reached out to him.

“I received an e-mail at 3 o’clock in the morning from them asking for an interview,” Brown said. “They weren’t even on my radar.”

Brown received encouragement from his coworkers in Las Vegas to follow up with the opportunity, and he officially signed a contract in January.

The work environment at Cairo American College is different than what Brown experienced during his time in Nevada; the K-12 International Baccalaureate (IB) school hosts around 800 students, a far cry from the average 2,200 Brown encountered at Las Vegas schools. The standards of rigor are considerably higher, and the class sizes are smaller. Despite these differences, Brown has chosen to focus on the most important similarity.

“Something that I’ve realized is no matter where you’re teaching, whether you’re in Cairo or America, kids are still the same,” Brown said. “The attention they receive from a teacher is important, and they’re always looking for guidance.”

Since arriving in Cairo on Aug. 1, Brown has taken the time to explore Egypt’s landmarks. He has posed in front of the Giza Pyramids and ran alongside the Nile River, which is a 15 minute walk from the apartment he shares with other American teachers.

“When you read about these things in textbooks, you don’t expect to actually go there,” Brown said. “But it’s in my backyard now.”

Brown credits his undergraduate years at the C of I as a member of Student Ambassadors and the men’s basketball team as an experience that has helped to prepare him for his new career abroad.

“The liberal arts background made me well-rounded,” Brown said. “I also had the opportunity to travel and interact with students from all different cultures, which was something I couldn’t get as easily in Las Vegas.”

Making the move to Egypt helped Brown fulfill his personal goal. For the next two years, he hopes to help his students at Cairo American College do the same. 

Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. It has a century-old tradition of educating some of the most accomplished graduates in Idaho, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three Marshall Scholars, and another 12 Truman and Goldwater Scholars. The College is located on a beautiful campus in Caldwell, Idaho. Its distinctive PEAK curriculum challenges students to attain competencies in the four knowledge peaks of the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field, enabling them to graduate with an academic major and three minors in four years. For more information on The College of Idaho, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.