Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Sign In
Alumni Profiles

Franz Josef Berger, 2018

Why did you choose Middle East Studies at AUC?
I chose Middle East Studies at AUC for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to be based in the region that I am studying. Egypt belongs to the core of the Middle East and has been one of the centers of the wave of protests normally referred to as the Arab Spring. Being in Cairo allows you to combine theory (the academic knowledge in the classes) with practice (i.e. engaging with Egyptian colleagues in class or on campus, Egyptians that you meet in your private life etc.). Also, since I wanted to study Arabic at the same time, it was important for me to be in an Arabic speaking country. The second reason I chose AUC was the reputation of the university. AUC is among the best-rated universities in the Middle East. It is known for its high quality of teaching, and its progressive and liberal values.

What were the stand out experiences of your time at MESC?
What stands out for me are several things. Firstly, I appreciated the close contact with professors from all departments. All professors that I had were very accessible, always helpful and always ready to discuss with you when you needed, even outside their normal office hours. Secondly, I appreciated the campus and its facilities, particularly the library which is an excellent pool of resources for literature on the Middle East. Thirdly, I would also mention the high standards and requirements in class. Classes require a lot of reading, many presentations, papers etc. It is a lot of work. AUC pushes you to your limits. I particularly appreciated the classes that forced you to develop your own hypothesis and focused on academic reasoning. Lastly, I also appreciated the multi-disciplinary nature of the programme, particularly the ability to choose courses from a range of different AUC departments.

What changes would you like to see at MESC in future?
MESC is one of the smaller departments at AUC and could benefit from a larger group of students. I would hope that in the future, MESC will employ also professors that specialize in disciplines other than international relations, i.e. the history, comparative politics or sociology of the Middle East. I think the curriculum for the core course „Introduction to Middle Eastern Studies“ could still be tweaked a bit to reflect the multi-disciplinary nature of Middle Eastern Studies.

Salwa Salman, 2018

Why did you choose Middle East Studies at AUC?
I chose MESC because it had an interdisciplinary program that suited me as a journalist who aimed to have an in-depth understanding of the political, social, and economic situation in the Middle East. The program helped me in finding my passion in urban sociology and it equipped me to have strong analytical tools and pursue a career as a researcher in my field of interest. 

What were the stand out experiences of your time at MESC?
Being a part of the center was one of the best experiences in my life, my fellow work helped me in getting acquainted with how to do administrative as well as academic tasks. As an Alumni, I'm still in contact with my professors at MESC, especially MESC's director prof. Mason who never hesitate to help and advise me regarding presenting my thesis at international conferences and pursuing my PhD.

What changes would you like to see at MESC in future?
During the last two years, MESC has improved a lot leaning more towards policy-oriented courses, which is great. However, I would still suggest increasing the focus on social studies and anthropology.

Sara Adel Hussein, 2018

Why did you choose Middle East Studies at AUC?
I chose to study at MESC in AUC because I knew how strong the nature of the interdisciplinary program there was. I wanted to create relationships with and have access to some of the best scholars of the region. Additionally, as an enthusiast of Egyptian history and of urban studies, I knew I had to be in Cairo. Actually living in the city, immersed in the society that you are studying was the most fulfilling part of my graduate studies and it is something that only AUC uniquely offers. I feel very fortunate to have been a MESC fellow and to have been a part of such a dynamic and academically rigorous MA program.

What were the stand out experiences of your time at MESC?
The best part of MESC is certainly the people- the scholars and students who you get to know in the center and especially the phenomenal and supportive office staff. MESC offered an environment that allowed me access to fascinating and brilliant individuals who later became my colleagues, close friends, and mentors, and I will always be grateful for that. 

I also really enjoyed the various events regularly offered by the MESC department. Collaborating with the director and other fellows in choosing which speakers would come to speak with students was always exciting. In the past, MESC has hosted many different academics, writers, diplomats, filmmakers, economists, etc. and set up a film series. Learning about a variety of different topics from these guest lecturers in a small setting and getting the chance to engage with them was always informative and interesting. 

What changes would you like to see at MESC in future?
As I mentioned, I was attracted to MESC because of its interdisciplinary nature. I feel like, in recent years, much of that key characteristic of the department has been significantly reduced and transformed. The emphasis on mainstream policy studies and international relations has really taken over; MESC has largely become a political science center. The only courses offered are policy-related, as are almost all of the events. As the Middle East Studies Center at one of the leading universities in the Middle East and in a central hub of Cairo, the negligence of other fields and the complete absence of any critical dynamics are concerning to me. 

I really loved being a grad student at MESC, choosing it was the best decision I made, and I want to see it continue to succeed. So, I think the center could benefit by considering the effects these changes in its identity will have on the attraction of potential students and to reflect on and perhaps diversify the kinds of student/scholars and knowledge it is producing.

One way MESC can incorporate discipline diversity could be to re-introduce bringing in speakers that nourish other aspects of Middle East study- for example, writers, scholars on film/literature/religious/ studies, urbanists, sociologists, anthropologists, historians, journalists, etc. and utilizing the very rich artistic and intellectual society that being in Cairo affords access to. 

Another change I would like to see is more structured support for thesis writing. On average, students at MESC tend to take extra semesters completing their thesis. I think this could be remedied by more support from the center on preparation, guidelines, writing support groups, maybe having research clusters where students can engage with each other, or just having a way to check in with each other more regularly as it can be a very isolating process. 

Hend Eltaweel, 2016

Regional Program Assistant, MENA - International Organization for Migration (IOM) - UN Affiliate

How did MESC help your career path?  
Providing this fascinating interdisciplinary experience, I found myself able to engage in thought-provoking discussions around Middle East issues, the thing that broadened my potentials and qualified me to apply for serious positions at esteemed organizations.

What advice would you give to current students at MESC?
Try to embrace the experience and don't be afraid or shy of class discussions. Read, read and read. Listen to different perspectives before formulating any subjective judgment. Rest assured that mere black and white rarely ever exist in social sciences. You have not learned anything until you can see the nuances.

Cally Walker, 2014

Research Officer at the Economic and Social Research Council

How did MESC help your career path? 
I work on commissioning research on international development and do enjoy my work. I think in terms of an MA from AUC, a lot of employers do find it interesting and think that spending quality time learning and doing research in an Arab country is important.

Munehiro Anzawa, 2011

Second Secretary (Political and Cultural Affairs), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan

How did MESC help your career path? 
Thanks to receiving a comprehensive knowledge of the Middle East from AUC, I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. In fact, the interdisciplinary research and knowledge that I learned about Middle East Studies help me to analyze this region from a perspective of diplomacy. I would say there is nowhere better than AUC to pursue studies on this region. 

I hope to go back to Cairo for next my assignment and see your center again.