Click on an alumni to learn more about their experiences during and after taking part in our program
Major(s): Middle East Studies and International Studies
Hometown(s):Seattle, WA and Bountiful, UT
Beginning my undergraduate career, I was interested in archeology and anthropology. I began taking classes in these subjects and found myself in a cross-listed Middle East course. The rest they can say, is history. I immediately became extremely interested in the culture, politics, history, and current events throughout the region.
So many come to mind. I studied The Arab Spring, Middle East geopolitics, and the Syrian refugee crisis. However, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in turn, conflict resolution was the focus of my studies.
Study abroad! My first study abroad opportunity came when I was accepted for summer school at Cambridge University, England to study ancient empires. There, I learned of the ancient Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and Hittites. These courses gave me a fundamental understanding of the ancient civilizations within the Middle East. The following summer, I was selected to join a conflict resolution study abroad hosted in Israel. We mainly resided in a sustainable kibbutz near Eilat and had excursions to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and the West Bank. I traveled to Jordan once the program ended to continue my journey independently. The hands-on experiences of meeting with ex-soldiers, hearing storiesof refugees, and living amongst the people was the most beneficial learning experience. I gained a newfound understanding of the region, the conflicts, the politics, and the people.
I joined Model Arab League debate where I traveled to Denver and Washington, D.C. to represent Egypt on Palestinian Affairs. While winning Outstanding Delegate at regionals and Honorable Mention at nationals were tremendous achievements, nothing compares to the experience I gained while competing. I was taught how to propose and pass agreeable resolutions to all parties within a time constraint. This truly paved the way for me, as a graduate, to understand where my passions lie. While in Washington, D.C. we were able to visit the Egyptian Embassy to discuss Egypt’s stance. It was an amazing opportunity!
Don’t be afraid to get involved! I believe that nothing can make you truly understand a topic or issue unless you get firsthand experience. Whether that be through studying abroad, volunteering, interning, or competing in debate, you will learn invaluable knowledge through these experiences. Every course, every experience, and every opportunity that I engaged in shaped me into the graduate that I am today.
Immediately following graduation, I worked as an Analyst for Goldman Sachs. I am currently shifting careers to focus on government and politics as a congressional staffer in Washington, D.C.
Major(s): Middle East Studies and Pre-Med
Hometown: Kaysville, Utah
Language(s): Turkish, Bulgarian
While spending some time living in Turkey, I became fascinated with the culture, language, and history. I fell in love with the people and the cities; I wanted to deepen my understanding so I could foster relationships with my friends there as well as help dispel misconceptions of others closer to home.
One of the things I was most interested in during my degree was the history of this region. The Middle East was the epicenter of global culture and economy centuries before even the idea of our own country.
I particularly enjoyed Professor Von Sivers' classes. He showed tremendous expertise on the topic and had a good skill in making history more real than rote memorization of dates and names.
My most memorable time was getting to become such good friends with my instructors and classmates. Each class was an intimate gathering of like-minded students, with a professor who was knowledgeable and dedicated to helping ussucceed.
Middle East Studies is a unique major that helps you understand a population with a rich history and vibrant culture. Enjoy each class! The diversity of the required classes helps to deepen your overall understanding of Middle Eastern people, culture, and languages.
I just completed my first year of medical school.
Major(s): Middle East Studies
Hometown: Salt Lake City, UT
I originally pursued Middle East Studies as a major because traditional education leaves out the history and cultures of people outside of our usual Western-centric education system. I was in a search of understanding and learning about these important voices and narratives.
During my time at the University of Utah,I studied the complexities of history, culture and language and their profound impacts on one another in modern times.
The opportunity at the University of Utah that impacted me the most was our robust language program. Iwas able to study Arabic in Utah and abroad. Learning a language allowed me to take the lessons I learned in a traditional classroom setting and connect them with people in my community and the larger international community who lived some of these experiences. I was able to use my language skills and apply them to research and internships outside of my classes.
The most memorable part of my education was my time spent learning abroad. Living abroad and being immersed completely in my education allowed me to expand my understanding of what was possible for me both academically and professionally. I was inspired by my teachers and people I worked with during my internship,and it shaped what would be my future professional path.
Connect with your faculty and advisers! The International and Area Studies team provides opportunities for you to network and learn outside of aclassroom. Take every opportunity your university provides you. Undergraduates can leverage their education to pursue research and internships and these will allow you to gain the hard skills employers are looking for.
Currently I work in operations at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest civil rights organizations that works to protect the Muslim community in America and abroad by providing free legal services and education.
Major(s): Middle East Studies
Hometown: Salt Lake City, UT
Language(s): Arabic and French
When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be an Egyptologist. Eventually, as I got older -I became more interested in contemporary political issues and international relations. These interests led me to the Middle East Studies and Political Science programs at the University of Utah, where I double majored. Since graduating, my undergraduate degree in Middle East Studies has become invaluable in my career in government and economic development.
The Arab Spring occurred right in the middle of my studies, which became the central focus of my studies as a student. As someone initially interested in Middle East history, I began exploring the history political Islam in the region and how it has evolved over time to fit the agenda of various governments and non-state actors.
I was nominated through the department to a winter fellowship from National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations where I was part of an all-female delegation who studied in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This experience provided an unparalleled, immersive opportunity to study the nuances and complexity of Saudi Arabia’s government, history and culture. Understanding the nuances that existing on a country level enabled me to gain a better perspective of the challenges and opportunities in the Middle East at a regional level.
Competing with the Model Arab League team in Washington D.C. was one of my fondest experiences as an undergraduate.
It's important you have a career goal and path outlined with a Middle East Studies degree, but know that there are more options out there than you realize. Explore options outside your comfort zone.
I am the director of communications and marketing for the Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs. I was brought on in part to help increase our advocacy and outreach to current conflict veterans and family members.
Major(s): Middle East Studies
Hometown: Sandy, UT
I always wanted to be an Egyptian Archaeologist, but I eventually realized the whole Middle East is a fascinating mix of cultures, histories, and societies. When it came to choosing a major, Middle Eastern Studies was the obvious decision.
The research I was most interested in was tracing Islamic ideologies through different philosophers, and trying to map how ideologies change and merge over time. I also loved studying Arabic because it was a fun challenge and a change of pace from heavy academic classes.
The advisers in International and Area Studies were amazing and supportive. They made class suggestions for courses I never would have considered taking, and I was always glad I took their advice. Professor Safiullah and April Sanders-Aboulila were extremely important in my college and post-college successes. I still regularly benefit from what I learned in their classes. Participating in the BlockU learning community was a great foundation that helped me throughout college, and it allowed me to get my generals done faster and start my major sooner.
Being able to study abroad was very memorable since it challenged me to adapt to situations I never could have anticipated. Being totally lost in cities I knew nothing about, and having to rely only on myself and a language I can barely speak is memorable, terrifying, and the best experience I had while studying for my major.
The best advice I have is to make sure you take the time to study abroad at least once. There are tons of scholarships available to make the trip affordable, and you will love every second of it, even the hard and stressful parts. I would also suggest taking classes you are interested in, but that don't necessarily apply to your major. I took a class called Wildlife Ecology and Conservation taught by Amy Sibul, which had nothing to do with my major, but I found parallels between ecology and society that really benefited my research and understanding of complex issues.
I am currently working at the National Council on U.S -Arab Relations which coordinates the Youth Leadership Development Program -Model Arab League. I participated for 3 years in Model Arab League at the U, and it was a rewarding experience that forced me to take what I learned in my major and use it to debate and create policy solutions for real-world issues. I was lucky to get a job with the Council when I graduated, and now I get to continue working with the program that made such a difference in my college life. With the National Council, I have been able to travel to Oman, coordinate and travel to conferences around the country, and facilitate intern programs for some of the top Middle East and International Studies students in the United States. I am definitely biased, but I would suggest all Middle East and International Studies students look into Model Arab League if they want to improve their debate, leadership, and coalition building skills.
Major(s): International Studies and Political Science
Hometown: Rockville, MD
Language(s): French, Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish
I had a lot of language and travel in my background, and I wanted to formalize that experience with my education. I knew that a background in international affairs would give me a unique and valuable perspective on almost anything I wanted to do later in life—business, politics, social issues, even climate change.
As an undergrad, I was most interested in political violence and what leads to such events. I was particularly focused on the MENA region.
I was able to do an internshipwith the Department of State's Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations in Washington, DC, where I worked on the Syria team. This experience was definitely possible because of my language background and the incredible classes I was able to take, with professors that were flexible in letting me delve into my areas of interest.
I loved my Political Violence and Terrorism class, as well as Military Geography! Our Arabic class started to feel like a family, which was wonderful. My internship was also one of the most exciting experiences I had in college; every day was always new, challenging, and fulfilling.
Don't pigeon-hole yourself! International Studies is very, very broad with exciting opportunities at every turn. Use this time to explore areas of specialization, travel, and ask lots of questions so that you can have a better idea of what you want to do later.
I recently finished my Fulbright ETA grant to Malaysia, and I am currently working in local community development while studying for the LSATs. I also teach rock climbing!
Major(s): Middle East Studies and Political Science
Hometown: Highland, Utah
I believe a large part was coming of age post-9/11. I grew up hearing about the Middle East every day on the news, and I decided that if the U.S. was going to be involved in the Middle East I had better do my part to better understand the region.
The topic I most focused on was terrorism and non-state actors, as well as refugees.
The faculty was incredible, and my internship in Jordan was the most valuable experience of my undergrad.
Study hard! The languages are not easy.
I work for Representative John Curtis (UT-3) doing Foreign Affairs Committee work.