The Program in Middle Eastern Studies does not require but strongly encourages students to study abroad as part of their program of study, preferable in the MENA or Arabic-speaking regions.
The majority of MES majors and minors, as well as a considerable number of students of Arabic who choose to major in other subjects, have opted to spend a semester or a year in an Arabic-speaking country and the vast majority of these students have taken the opportunity to continue and deepen their studies of the Arabic language as part of their academic programs overseas. Wellesley College maintains a list of approved programs of study abroad in the MENA countries. For the most up-to-date information about study abroad opportunities, see the Office of International Studies website.
Past Students Speak on their Abroad Experience
CIEE Amman: Language and Culture, Intensive Arabic Program
“I studied abroad in Amman, Jordan with CIEE at the University of Jordan. In my first semester, I took Colloquial Arabic as well as modern Standard Arabic and two classes taught in English—Paths to Peace in the Middle East and Contemporary Arab Women writers. My second semester, I was in the new intensive language study program and took all of my classes in Arabic, including the History of Hashemite Kingdom and Arab Literature. Throughout the year I lived with three home stay families from different neighborhoods and of different religious backgrounds. I got to experience Ramadan and Eid parties with my Muslim families, and Eastern orthodox Easter with my Christian family. I traveled all around Jordan and had many memorable trips that included floating in the Dead Sea, kayaking on the Red Sea in Aqaba, climbing mountains in Petra, riding camels in Wadi Rum, watching a chariot race at the ancient Roman city of Jerash, seeing Jesus’ baptism site and Mount Nebo, and of course, getting to know Amman extremely well. I made friends from all over the world and was always given massive amounts of food and tea by extremely generous host families and friends. I took belly dancing, had a Jordanian language partner to help me with homework, watched a lot of Al-Jazeera and played a lot of card games. I learned a great deal from my experience and would highly recommend that people study abroad in the Middle East!
School for International Training: Modernization and Social Change, Jordan
“The CIA World Factbook makes traveling to Jordan sound a little depressing and undesireable. Fourth largest water shortage in the world- no traces of fossil fuels (the only bit they had was traded to Saudi for Aqaba, a seaport) – 6 million residents, around half of them refugees. Nevertheless, Jordan plays an incredibly important role in the Middle East, maintaining close diplomatic ties with all the neighboring states, including Israel, as well as the West. One of the most stable governments in the region, Jordan has struggled to incorporate democracy and increase individual rights. Beyond the intellectual interest I had in Jordan, the opportunity my study abroad gave me to learn about the Jordanian people and culture was incredible. I loved with a Palestinian-Jordanian family, becoming another one of their daughters for three months. As my Arabic language skills improved, I ventured out into the city and country more, shopping in the vegetable market for food, eating falafel and shawarma, getting proposed to by taxi drivers. Besides my months in Amman, the capital, I lived for a week in the Badia—a rural area populated b no-longer-nomadic Bedouins and traveled to Cairo for a week. I finished off my trip with month-long research into Iraqi refugees. This was a valuable addition to my Wellesley studies and I strongly suggest that MES majors take the opportunity to study abroad.
SIT Morroco: Migration Studies
“I was in Morocco last spring on a program called SIT Morocco: Migration Studies. It was the first semester SIT offered it, so the academic advisors were extremely open to trying new things. I had the best time abroad in Morocco. I lived with a host family for two months, where I was really forced to learn Darija (Moroccan Arabic) quickly because one of them spoke English and I did not speak French. Coming from a Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies background, I was able to adapt my previous knowledge to a subject I formally knew little about (migration). Through my program, I was able to gain a complex and thorough understanding of migration through visiting NGOs, guest speakers relating migration to anything from geography to art, research, discussions with Moroccan university students, living with a family, and educational excursions around Morocco and even into Spain to understand Moroccan Migration from the “other side”. I made very meaningful connections and memories while I was there, and am actually returning to Morocco after my graduation because of such an experience. I presented the project I completed the last moth I was in Morocco. We were required to research and present a project on migration at the end of the program. For a month, I raveled around Morocco collecting pieces of tile to create a mosaic representative of Moroccan Migration.
Center for Work and Service Identified Internship at the Center for Cross-Cultural Learning in Rabat, Morocco
“My summer in Rabat was easily the most amazing summer of my life. I worked at the Center for Cross-Cultural Learning, which hosted study-abroad programs from around the world. Working in a beautiful, traditional house in the medina overlooking the ocean, I came to feel like a useful member of the CCCL staff. I got to know a little about my Moroccan co-workers, and used my language skills in a business setting. I also made friends with the Anglo- and Franco-phone ex-patriot communities. Rabat is the political capital of Morocco and has its distinct flavor. I had the opportunity to travel to Tangier, Marrakech, and Fes. I was lucky enough to attend the Gnaoua Music festival in Essaouira, a world-renowned festival that focuses on music brought to the area by slaves from Sub-Saharan Africa.
McGhee Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies (Georgetown University), Turkey
“I had a wonderful time studying abroad in Turkey through the McGhee Center. The program is small (usually between ten and twenty people), and takes place in the fall semester. You start off with a two-week trip to Istanbul, including excursions to Bursa and Edime, and to Ankara, and then drive down to Alanya, a medium-sized, tourist-friendly city perched on the beautiful beaches of the Mediterranean, where the program is based. You take classes in the McGhee Center, a late-Ottoman villa with stunning views of the Mediterranean, and live in a modern apartment building just a short walk from the city, beach, and villa. In addition to courses (for Georgetown University credit), on all aspects of the history, politics and culture of Turkey and the broader Eastern Mediterranean and Turkish language, the program includes extensive travel to Greek and Roman archaeological sites in southern Analtolia and a two-week excursion in Syria. The academic load is demanding, but rewarding—if you know little abut Turkey or the region (as I did), you will leave this program incredibly informed. You will also leave with a network of people who will help you get back to Turkey after graduation, if you wish (as I do). Iyi yolculuklar! (Happy travels)!