Meet Some of Our Students

Nora Snyder (International Relations and Middle East Studies, '14)

My first semester at USC, I decided to enroll in Arabic I more or less on a whim. It was a decision that proved to be a life-changing one. I quickly fell in love with the language, culture, and politics of the Middle East. Arabic became my passion, and I threw myself into the study of this fascinating region, ultimately adding a Middle East Studies major. My studies led me to new experiences and friendships, and eventually to a semester abroad spent learning and exploring in beautiful Amman, Jordan. I loved the experience of immersing myself in this culture so much that since graduating, I have returned to Jordan, excited to see where my latest Middle Eastern adventure will take me.

Studying the Middle East has never been more relevant. The USC Middle East Studies Program is the perfect introduction to a region that has played a crucial role in world affairs for millennia. Study abroad is the gateway to understanding it.

Sonal Singh (International Business with Middle East Studies minor, '13)

The minor in Middle East Studies turned out to be just what I was looking for to complement my degree in the Marshall School of Business. After trying and abandoning three different minors during my freshman year at USC, on a whim I signed up for a semester of Arabic with the thought of finally taking a class “just to take it.” Never did I imagine that I would tap into something that would change my entire experience at USC.

Although I initially did not see my spontaneous choice as a turning point in my education, my time at USC has made me realize the interconnectedness of my concentration in International Business and my minor in Middle Eastern Studies. My love for Middle Eastern culture and my zeal of connecting with an international audience go together, and that has led me to find my niche in Marketing for Emerging Markets (including the Middle East). With this revelation, I have been able to hone the skills that will allow me to pursue a career in Global Business Development upon graduation.

Kevin Steen (Middle East Studies and Linguistics '13)

Before coming to USC, I never imagined I would be a student of Middle East Studies. I took Arabic I my freshman year just to see if I was up for the challenge and was surprised to discover a passion for the region and its many languages and peoples. Two years later, I'm heading off to a semester abroad in Amman, Jordan, thanks to funding from the Council on International Educational Exchange and the Department of State Gilman International Scholarship Program. By taking classes at the University of Jordan and living with a Jordanian host family, I hope not only to hone my Arabic, but also to gain a perspective on the Middle East that goes beyond the media headlines.

My double majors in Middle East Studies and Linguistics perfectly complement one another.  Pursuing both majors allows me to apply the theories of one academic discipline to a specific region of the world, complete with its vast array of languages, histories, and cultures. While in Jordan, I'll conduct an independent research project that explores the ways that Jordan's tribal heritage effects the personal and collective identities of modern Jordanians.

Eventually I plan to pursue a PhD in Middle East Studies.

Maereen Sheikh (Middle East Studies '12)

I came into USC as a transfer student.  Majoring in Middle East Studies gives me flexibility to study religion, history, language, and even politics.

Studying abroad seemed so far-fetched for me because I had never travelled by myself, let alone lived in a foreign country for months. But given the current political revolution going on in the Middle East and my experience studying Arabic, I was sold on wanting to study abroad there, especially in Egypt.  Professor Azade-Ayse Rorlich was so encouraging. Her most important advice was to go with an open mind and allow myself to grow and learn from the experience.

In Egypt in fall semester 2011, I took five classes, including a colloquial Arabic class. I realized that I was able to converse with more confidence and caught on to conversation very quickly because it was the local language. One of the most interesting conversations I had was with a fellow Egyptian student who went to participate in the protests in Tahrir Square in November. He explained to me that it was crucial for his people to protest because, even though there had been previous revolutions in Egypt, this time around was going to be different, things were going to change. Those words resonated with me every time I passed by the square and witnessed people camping out and protesting day and night to change the fate of their country.

I also was fortunate enough to travel around Egypt’s various cities and visit ancient sites. During the Eid holidays I also traveled to Jordan and Turkey.

In my last semester at USC, I also am enrolled in Persian.  Because of  a class I took on the history of Sufism in Egypt and knowing that many influential works written by Sufi poets have been in Persian, I was very excited to learn the language.

Being a Middle East Studies major and going abroad has been the most influential experiences for me because I am so much more cognizant of issues and problems at a global level. I plan to attend law school next year and work in human rights law and development.