Portrait of Farida Ali

Farida Ali

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

Yorkshire born and bred, I completed my Undergraduate degree in Marketing at the University of Huddersfield before going on to a successful career in Marketing and Sales within the IT, Funeral and Pharmaceutical Industry – an eclectic mix indeed! As someone who puts great stock on personal growth both through success and failure, I wholeheartedly believe life is one long learning experience and to that end have learnt to embrace change rather than fear it. A personal health crisis made me take stock of my career and was the essential driver for my change of career which took shape in pursuing an MA on Middle Eastern Studies.

What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?

In recent times, as the political situation in many Middle Eastern and Northern African nations has spiralled out of control, my desire to understand/engage with the region intensified. This sits at the heart of my decision to undertake a Masters in Arabic, Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Leeds. As a “Northern Lass”, having been based in the South, coming back to Leeds really does feel like “coming back home”. Leeds is not only a vibrant dynamic city that caters for its expanding, international student community but also a real powerhouse in cutting-edge research.

Selecting to undertake my Masters at the University of Leeds was an easy choice for me. I knew that I needed to choose an institution which would give me the best possible chance to challenge myself. Research-driven and globally renowned for its dynamic, modern and innovative approach to learning, the University of Leeds was a compelling choice, particularly in relation to Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. Having compared different courses extensively, the multidisciplinary program at Leeds offered a fantastic combination of flexibility allowing me to focus on subjects of personal interest and just as importantly incorporating language studies.

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

A desire to better understand this complex region was my driver. This was to a certain degree influenced by my visit to Palestine in 2017 and my renewed interest in learning Arabic. Having gone through a health crisis a few years before made me re-evaluate my career direction and I decided to focus on a personal interest that I had allowed for far too long to linger on the backburner. 

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?  

As a multidisciplinary program, this is primarily what attracted me and helped confirm my decision to study this Programme at Leeds. From joint modules with my Chinese Studies colleagues to the undergraduate students I mixed with in my Arabic class, my lectures and seminars were always permeated with a blend of students from various courses. This lively mix I feel broadened my learning and truly gave me the opportunity to meet some fantastic new friends.
What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?
The School/University offer multiple learning facilities and certainly I have benefited from the Leeds for Life Exchange. I chose to do Arabic as one of my modules and was paired up with a native Arabic speaker with whom I could converse and improve my speaking skills and vice versa. Maha is one of many international friends I have made at Leeds University.

Further, as a mature student returning to academia after 20 plus years was a daunting prospect, however, my fears were allayed by the exemplary support provided by Skills@Library training programme, helping me to brush up on critical skills & providing me with much-needed confidence to actively engage and enjoy the learning.

Did you work closely with a particular tutor or member or the University’s academic staff?

Throughout my course, I have had the opportunity to meet a variety of lecturers and professors within the School of Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies, all of whom have contributed to my learning. However, Dr Hendrik Kraetzschmar, Programme Manager for the MAMEIS course, has to be singled out for appreciation. As my Dissertation Supervisor, he has devoted time and energy in facilitating, encouraging, guiding and supporting me throughout the process for which I am truly grateful. It is a measure of his passion for the programme and keen interest to see every one of his students succeed.  

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?

Leeds offers a fantastic array of activities catering for both domestic and international students at all levels. With my interest in the Middle East, I have joined several societies and actively participated in the various events that have been organised. This has allowed me to not only meet new friends but also understand how the politics of the Middle East has impacted people’s lives on the ground.

What do you plan to do after your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?

Upon graduation, I hope to continue my work with the British Red Cross/ NGO with a specific focus on the Middle East. I know that the knowledge and experiences I gain on this course will guide my ongoing development and indeed open up opportunities to shape and make a difference.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

I would wholeheartedly recommend this course at the University of Leeds for anyone interested in the rapidly evolving Middle Eastern region. Take the opportunity to learn from world-class professors who are both knowledgeable and passionate about a complex and fascinating region that is currently in the midst of huge turmoil and change.