Research and Academia
"At Harvard I am expanding my academic research skills, which I feel were well established in Cambridge, with more qualitative research skills. At the moment I am attending a fieldwork research course with Harvard in Jordan on the Syrian Refugee Crisis."
Elsien van Pinxteren, AMES (Hebrew and Arabic), King’s College, 2013 Graduate.
Economics and the Foreign Office
"I started at Clare in 2007, studying for the Middle East and Islamic studies with Arabic BA. I'd come to Cambridge with very little experience in the language and history of the region, but with lots of questions about them that I wanted to find answers to. Studying in a small faculty like the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies faculty was perfect for that. All my lectures had such small numbers of people in them that it felt much more like a classroom, where open discussion dominated. I don't think friends in bigger faculties felt the same way. I also enjoyed the flexibility of the course, taking a few papers from elsewhere in the university, including the Theology faculty, which helped expose me to other disciplines and ways of approaching questions. Although there was enough work to mean that you never had an ‘empty plate’, I found plenty of time to get involved in other activities like sports. Since leaving Cambridge, I've joined the Foreign Office where I've continued to develop my Arabic. I've also gone on to do a Graduate Diploma in Economics in evening study at Birkbeck College, and am now doing an MSc in Economic policy at SOAS by correspondence, in which I’m combining my new economic studies with the regional and language expertise I gained during my BA."
"I chose to study Arabic when I was 15 due to my opposition to and interest in the Iraq War. Exactly ten years later, I was rewarded for my hard work by being given the opportunity to work directly with Iraqis seeking asylum through the International Organization for Migration (IOM)'s resettlement programme. The job involved conducting interviews with three Iraqi families per day and recording both their biographical data as well as their persecution stories, all of this in Arabic and without interpreters.
I would never have been able to do this without the solid base in both Arabic and the history of the Middle East provided by FAMES at Cambridge. The faculty responded quickly to the changing needs and interests of students pursuing Arabic with Middle Eastern Studies by introducing modules on topical subjects like Political Islam, Human
Rights in the Middle East, and Anthropology, which allowed students like me to undertake research that I was likely to use after university. The year abroad involved dizzying highs and lows, and in hindsight was one of the best things I have ever done. I chose Cambridge expressly because it was one of the only universities in the UK whose abroad programme was for the whole academic year, and which
allowed students the flexibility of choosing where to go and what to do. In my case, this meant I was able to take a course in dressmaking alongside my language studies in Damascus.
I am now based in Jordan and continue to work with IOM on assistance to Syrian refugees. I have witnessed first hand the competitive edge that having a good level of Arabic proffers in this sector and part of the world, and am still grateful to my teachers and professors for insisting in equal measure on written and spoken Arabic. Although my career path may seem straightforward, I took a circuitous route getting here and it was not always apparent how I would apply my studies to the real world. Therefore the best advice I can give anyone is to stick to the language even when it seems impossibly tough, and to be true to your interests, because eventually you will find the right fit.
I have kept in touch with almost all of my teachers, who continue to offer invaluable guidance and encouragement. Likewise, I formed close ties with my year and we are still a tight group, bumping into each other regularly in different parts of the Middle East and, when we can, in the UK."
Arianna Dini, AMES (Arabic)