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Middle Eastern Studies

The Breakdown

There’s no denying that the Middle East is certainly a fascinating and complex place. From the struggle to balance the sacred and the secular to the romance and mythology of the Arabian Nights and the sand- swept landscape, the countries that comprise this area hold a certain allure and mystery. And certainly, in recent years, the Middle East has taken center stage in geo-politics. If you’re eager and anxious to gain insight into this region, perhaps Middle Eastern studies is the major for you!

As a Middle Eastern studies major, you’ll find that your coursework will be quite interdisciplinary. Certainly, you’ll take classes in everything from religion and philosophy to political science, economics and literature. You’ll explore the development and practice of Islam, the interplay between Israel and its neighbors, the tenets of Judaism and perhaps even the poetry of Rumi. The majority of programs also require their students to become proficient in a regional language, be it Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, Persian, etc. Generally speaking, most classes will be reading and writing intensive. Finally, a majority of Middle Eastern studies majors spend some time studying abroad.

Should you choose to major in Middle Eastern studies, you’ll discover it’s important to be open to different cultures and ways of thinking. You will also find it beneficial to have a good ear for languages and strong communication skills in general. In addition, you should be great at analyzing and synthesizing information. Finally, you should be able to appreciate the culinary importance of the chickpea.

Nuts and Bolts

As a Middle Eastern studies major, you’ll have the opportunity to explore a wide range of topics including: Elementary Arabic, Resistance and Dissent in North Africa and the Middle East, Arabic Literature in Translation, Jerusalem: The Holy City, Islam and the Modern World, Archeology of the Biblical World, Religion and Culture in Iran, Government and Security in the Middle East, Palestine, Zionism and the Evolution of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Byzantine History and Persian Popular Ethics.

Decisions, Decisions

Middle Eastern studies majors are typically curious about other languages, cultures and the way they develop. Therefore, not surprisingly, they might also be interested in studying Arabic, religion/theology, philosophy, history, international relations, political science, economics, Asian studies, Latin American studies, American studies, African studies, classics, geography, Hebrew, anthropology and Jewish studies.

What's Next

All right – we’ll admit it. Middle Eastern studies does not necessarily prepare you for any specific career track. However, therein lies the beauty. The skills you’ll both hone and acquire are applicable to a variety of fields and professional pursuits. Indeed, if you do a little digging, you’ll find fellow majors in numerous industries. To begin, it’s fairly common for graduates to become translators or interpreters. Journalism is another popular route with majors often focusing on Middle Eastern stories/beats/bureaus. Many graduates, in search of adventure, seek positions with non-profits and NGOs, working and volunteering in the Middle East. International business is also a great path, with a handful of majors focusing on import/export. Additionally, government jobs are widely held with students becoming everything from immigration and customs officials to foreign service officers, dignitaries and diplomats. Still others might be found in such diverse fields as hospitality, consulting, social work and education. Truly you can start with Middle Eastern studies and (perhaps ironically) end up virtually anywhere!


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