This panel links four papers that address very different historical case studies: the establishment of an American missionary medical school in Beirut between 1860 and 1890, American Civil War veterans’ service in Egypt’s army in the 1870s, Norwegian-Americans’ pilgrimages to Palestine in the 1890s and 1920s, and the University of Michigan’s Student Christian Organization’s efforts to establish a “Michigan in Arabia” in Basra, Iraq in the 1910s. By juxtaposing these four situations, the panel draws attention to the larger question of what it meant to be American, Christian, and “civilized” in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and how Americans who travelled to the Middle East had to grapple with these issues. This panel’s four papers examine actors with transnational evangelistic, educational, ethnographic, and political ambitions; and employ English, French, Arabic, and Norwegian-language sources. However, they all show that Americans’ early encounters with the Middle East emerged from the deep tensions between Americans’ foundational ideologies of exceptionalism and the challenges of a rapidly changing world. All four studies follow their subjects across national and imperial boundaries, and will be of great interest to historians of the Middle East, the United States, to colonial and missionary scholars, as well as those interested in global or transnational history. Together the papers demonstrate how individuals and groups in the US both transplanted their ideas abroad and brought stories of the “Other” back home with them.