- Course: Arabic and International Relations
- Year of graduation: 2018
- Location of year abroad: Morocco
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I am 22 years old from London and I have recently completed a BA joint honours course at the University of Leeds. I enjoy travelling and learning languages with a strong interest in political and international affairs.
What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?
I applied to Leeds due to the unique joint honours courses on offer that allows students to combine various disciplines that can be undertaken to form a degree. I chose this because I think it is a great way to broaden your learning path and I was inclined to choose a course that would allow me to diversify the knowledge I gain. Additionally, this was an important factor to consider when thinking about future career plans and how my degree would be of use to me in the future.
What course did you study, what made you apply for that particular one and Why did you choose Leeds?
I studied BA Arabic and International Relations and I chose this particular course because I believe the two compliment each other greatly. This is because learning Arabic has exposed me to the MENA region, the various cultures and traditions across the Arab world and also the socio-political and historical processes of the region. This has worked well with my studies in International Relations that primarily focus on factors that influence state interaction from a theoretical point of view. I was able to use my knowledge learnt from the AIMES department about the Middle East and apply it to modules of International Relations. I chose Leeds because of the possibility to undertake a joint honours in these particular subjects.
What is it that made you passionate about your area of study?
Fortunately, my area of study is incredibly current. Thus, because of my curiosity in international affairs and the Middle East, my studies perfectly accompany this interest. I have always been interested in studying Arabic, learning about different Arab cultures and politics across the MENA region, which was heavily influenced by my travels to the region. Additionally, my strong interest in international politics encouraged me to pursue a study in this field leading to my passion in International Relations.
What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?
I enjoyed the fact that I could study a variety of modules from two schools due to the fact that a joint honours course allows this option. From this I was able to broaden my area of study and widen my knowledge if I chose to do so. Equally, it has been possible to focus my study on the Middle East due to the modules I chose. I also enjoyed balancing my studies between subjects because they were so diverse.
Additionally, studying a language at degree level provides the option to undertake a year abroad. Studying in Fes, Morocco was the highlight of my time at university for many reasons, primarily because it allowed me to practice Arabic daily as well as providing opportunities to experience Moroccan culture and traditions, which was incredibly enjoyable. I returned to Leeds having improved my confidence in speaking and writing Arabic.
What would you say about Leeds as a city?
Leeds as a city is diverse and welcoming. The best part of living in Leeds is that it caters for everyone with different interests and lifestyles. The people and students around the city are friendly and it is very easy to settle into life here.
What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?
The learning facilities at LCS are helpful and I would recommend making use of them. As a language student, it is important to practice speaking and listening skills constantly and so the language exchange partner scheme offered by the language zone allows students to practice Arabic with native speakers. This is a great opportunity to meet new people from different countries and cultures, as well as a way to exchange language-learning skills. The learning facilities at the University in general are also helpful, there are a variety of libraries and computer clusters on campus for studying and support is always available.
What was your experience with the FYP (Final Year Project)? What did you do your project on and what skills did you gain during the process?
My Final Year Project was a 12,000 word dissertation titled ‘Assessing the Shia Crescent: To what extent has Iran’s rise instigated the politics of sectarianism across the region?’. This project taught me overall how to compose, research and write a detailed dissertation. Support from tutors for the project is available throughout the year, however the FYP taught me how to work independently and use my research skills gained throughout my undergraduate degree on a bigger project that requires complex and detailed research and writing abilities. Additionally, the FYP taught me good time management skills as it is necessary to balance the project with other deadlines. The best part of doing an FYP is the freedom to choose a topic that you enjoy learning and researching about.
Did you spend any time abroad and if so how was your experience?
I spent a compulsory academic year abroad in Fes, Morocco. It was one of the best experiences of my life because it provided me with the opportunity to live and experience Moroccan culture and traditions, as well as meeting new people and travelling throughout Morocco. Additionally, it was a great opportunity to continue learning Arabic and to practice my skills with local Arabic speakers. We were also able to learn the local dialect known as Darija. It was an unforgettable experience and I would recommend any student to spend a year abroad!
Did you undertake any work experience or worked in a job related to your degree during your time at university? If so how did the skills gained as Leeds help you?
In my final year, I volunteered with Student Action for Refugees. They work to welcome asylum seekers and refugees into the UK, and my role was to help organise and co-ordinate Saturday conversation classes between student volunteers and learners. My language skills in Arabic have helped me greatly in my volunteering as it has allowed me to communicate with learners who speak Arabic. Additionally, I have undertaken summer jobs where I have been able to use Arabic when working with customers. It has been a great way to apply what I have learnt in lectures to the real world.
What are your career plans after finishing the course?
Presently, I intend to take a year out and continue to do work experience and volunteering. In September, I will be going to Oman to undertake a 3-month work experience scheme as a teaching assistant in a school. I hope that this will give me an idea as to what I wish to pursue as a career in the future. Additionally, this will be a great opportunity to continue practicing Arabic and experience Omani culture and traditions.