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Middle Eastern Studies

coastlineYear 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: Students who are doing only Persian or combining Persian and an MML language spend their whole year abroad in Iran. Most commonly, students who are combining Persian with Arabic, or Hebrew spend three to four months at a university in Iran, particularly Tehran, Mashhad or Esfahan. All of these universities have special programmes for overseas students, where they combine intensive language study with literature courses. If for any reason students cannot obtain a visa to Iran they will spend their Year Abroad 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

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 Iran

Rial is Iranian official currency. But commonly people use the word Toman instead of Rial to express the amounts of money and prices of goods. The value of Toman is 10 times more than the value of Rial. For example 100 Rials is equal to 10 Tomans. So if a shirt is tagged 450,000 Rials, the clerk will say it is 45,000 Tomans.

The exchange rate is usually unstable but at the moment one pound is equal to 47,000 Rials or as Iranians say 4,700 Tomans.

Cost of living: accommodation provided by universities and Persian centres in Iran are about £150 to £200 per month.

Food and other living expenses: It really depends on each individual. In Iran a cup of coffee can be around £3, though in the universities café it can be much cheaper around £1.5. In general food and restaurants are slightly cheaper than the UK. So depending on your life style in the UK, you may have to spend the same amount for food in Iran.

Transportation is relatively cheap in Iran (except flights). In Tehran, the single bus tickets can be less than 20p and the hired taxi can start from £2. In the city it shouldn’t be more than £6 for long journeys. Underground/Metro in Tehran is a great means of transportation. A single trip is around 20p and a return can be around 30p. If you have a Metro credit card (which is something like Oyster card), the single fare can drop to 10p.

Costs in Israel

The most popular Israel Shekel exchange rate is the ILS to USD rate, hence the dollars referred to below.

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.


The Study Abroad Co-ordinator for Arabic Studies is Mrs Farida El-Keiy.
The Study Abroad Co-ordinator for Hebrew Studies is Dr Aaron Hornkohl.
The Study Abroad Co-ordinator for Persian Studies is Dr Mahbod Ghaffari.