Year Abroad in Middle Eastern Studies
(Arabic, Hebrew and Persian)
The Year Abroad is perhaps the most rewarding part of the degree course, where students have a chance to explore for themselves and in their own way the language, society and culture of the Middle East. To encourage this exploration students choose for themselves how and where to spend their Year Abroad, as long as the country they choose is safe at the time, and they are spending the year doing something structured which involves considerable use of Arabic, Hebrew or Persian. All Middle Eastern Studies students, including those combining this with a European language, must spend at least eight months in the Middle East. They have another seven months between the end of their second year and the beginning of their fourth to spend where they wish.
Some students spend the whole year following a structured course in the language they are studying, but many these days do some sort of internship or voluntary work, alongside some private tuition in the language. Some follow a university course such as politics, literature or Islam, taught to the locals in the local language. Students make their arrangements themselves, with the Department providing information, support and advice.
As well as improving their language knowledge and getting a better feel for the culture and society, students gather material for a dissertation on a topic of their own choosing during the year, to be written up in their fourth year. They get guidance on this both before and during the year abroad. There is no requirement for students to take or pass exams or follow specific courses of study during the year abroad. What they achieve over the year is examined in their fourth year in their oral exam, their dissertation, and the way the knowledge and experience they have gained give breadth and depth to their other studies.
Arabic: The countries our students spend the year in vary, according to their inclinations and the political conditions in the Middle East. For example in 2013 – 14 we have students in Jordan, Oman, the West Bank, the Sudan and Morocco. They spend the year doing a wide range of things, from assisting in a school in a north Lebanese town to helping in a Palestinian theatre company or a hospital, to interning with an Egyptian human rights organisation or working with a sailing company in Oman.
Hebrew: Most students spend the year at a major university in Israel at Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa or Beer-Sheva. All of these universities have special programmes for overseas students, where they combine intensive language study with courses of their own choosing in subjects such as Israeli history, society, modern literature, Jewish thought, politics or Biblical studies. Some students do work or voluntary work instead, for some or all of the year.
Persian: Most commonly, students spend three months at a university in Iran, either Tehran or Esfahan. It is often hard to get a visa for more than three months, and students combining with Arabic or Hebrew spend the rest of the year in a country relevant to those languages. Occasionally, it is simply impossible for students to get to Iran, and they then spend time in Tajikistan where possible, or sometimes studying Persian somewhere else.
The costs of the Year Abroad are very variable, depending on what a student chooses to do and where they choose to go. The costs below are approximate, based on current information.
Worldwide travel insurance is available for around £200
You will need to check with your local GP surgery what you will need. Most vaccinations are free of charge. For most Arabic-speaking countries you are likely to need typhoid, hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccinations. Anyone travelling to the Sudan will probably need vaccinating against meningitis (and there is likely to be a cost as only vaccination against meningitis C is free); anti-malarial medication is also likely to be necessary. You can buy this over the counter from a pharmacy.
Costs in the Arab world
Tuition fees: these can vary enormously depending on where you go and what combination of tuition you might arrange. The choice is large, but typical (approximate) costs would range as follows:
- £700 for eight months of full-time courses at a Language Institute in Luxor;
- £1500 in Jordan for a one-term intensive course at a Language Institute;
- £1100 for eight months of weekly language tuition in a Language School in Cairo plus eight months of weekly private tuition;
- £2,045 for 8 weeks of intensive tuition at a language training institution in Oman;
- £800 for 6 weeks of intensive private tuition at a Language Institution in Morocco; £10 per hour is normal for private tuition.
Cost of living: accommodation in Jordan away from the tourist areas can cost around £50 per month (including meals). In Morocco it is likely to cost between £80 and £150 per month, and up to £250 if meals are included.
Food and other living expenses: in Jordan a cup of coffee is around 60p away from the tourist areas. In Morocco food costs vary, but are usually not very expensive. A cup of coffee is about 50p, a kilo of oranges could be 30p, you can eat a cheap bowl of lentils and bread and tea for 60p or a tagine for about £4. Getting around is also cheap, especially taxis. One student in Jordan commented ‘I would generally spend about 300 pounds a month, but more if I was sightseeing. Sightseeing and travelling around the touristy places, especially when I had people visiting from home, were by far my biggest costs.’
Costs in Israel
The most popular Israel Shekel exchange rate is the ILS to USD rate, hence the dollars referred to below.
Tuition: $7900 (includes language instruction and university courses for the whole semester) Accommodation: $160/week (Hebrew University accommodation)
Food: around 150 shekels/week (really depends on the person though). A pastry in a campus café is around 7 to 10 shekels. The cost of a coffee really depends on where you go - at the low end around 3 shekels in a campus café.
Mobile phone: on contract $35/month (includes unlimited calling, texting and 3G data within Israel, and unlimited calling to UK)
Transport: a light rail ticket costs 6.90 shekels (for unlimited usage within a 90 minute period on the light rail and Egged buses). A discount can be obtained by buying a student card.