Ben Gittleson

2011-2012 (CASA I)

American University in Cairo (AUC)

International Assignment Editor, ABC News

New York, NY

What job or path of study did you pursue after graduating from the CASA program?

My interest in news and politics in the Middle East – particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – led me to study Arabic in college. After CASA, I began working as a freelance journalist based in Cairo, filing articles and videos from Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq. I then moved to New York and started at ABC News, where I've covered both foreign and domestic news — including traveling around the United States reporting on the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Has your CASA experience helped you in any specific or surprising ways throughout your career?

Speaking Arabic has given me a deeper understanding of the larger news stories of the Arab world, from the war in Syria and the fight against ISIS to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I'm able to get a quicker, more nuanced grasp of what is happening on the ground — from reading tweets and news reports to corresponding with people in the region.

Do you have a favorite memory from CASA? What is your lasting impression of CASA?

My cohort was very lucky to live in Egypt during such a momentous time in its history. It was rare that a week went by without some sort of demonstration or major political development – often, just blocks from our campus or apartments. Our classrooms were even looted during one breakout of clashes in and around Cairo's Tahrir Square. The tumult gave us an opportunity to dive into fascinating political discussions with our Egyptian friends and to incorporate contemporary writings and media into our lessons.

What advice would you give to current CASA Fellows?

The greatest benefit of a CASA Fellowship is the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in Arabic. It is a privilege to receive world-class instruction that you can immediately put into practice in the field. Spend as much time as possible with native speakers, get involved with local groups, and explore your city and the region as much as possible.