I came to Canberra wanting to find out more about the Middle East’s history, politics, and people. Passionate about languages, I was also keen on learning the region’s main languages and discovering its rich cultural heritage. The Masters in Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies offered by CAIS was the only program able to cater to these interests and provide the right balance of courses, politics- and language-related, for my degree.
My interest in the Middle East stems largely from my Greek background. I’ve always been fascinated by the immense cross-cultural interaction between the Hellenic world and the East, which began in ancient times with the Persians, was continued through the Middle Ages with the Arabs, and completed these last few centuries with the Turks. At the same time, more recent phenomena, including the events of the Arab Spring and the resurgence of global terrorism, also influenced me in choosing to pursue studies at CAIS.
Despite the peculiarities of the language’s grammar, my Arabic learning experience has been very worthwhile, with the team at CAIS knowing how to engage students and always bringing relevance to what we do in the classroom. It’s also worth noting that my exposure to Arabic language and culture complemented the politics courses I took related to such topics as the affairs of the Gulf states, international terrorism, and Islam.
Learning Persian has exposed me to a unique world: Iranian culture is one of time-honoured traditions and a proud, ancient people whose language has influenced so many others throughout the ages. Indeed, what amazed me most during my time in the classroom was that so many words in Greek commonly considered to be borrowed from Turkish are in fact Persian in origin, having merely entered the language through Turkish.
Like its Persian equivalent, the Turkish program at CAIS is the only one of its kind in Australia. The comprehensive courses in Ottoman history and Turkish politics delivered by Dr Yurtbilir provided me in-depth knowledge of Turkey’s past and current state of affairs, as well as a better understanding of the mosaic that is Turkish society. Having covered the origins of the Ottoman Empire and today’s Kemalist state, in addition to the dynamics of the political crisis currently plaguing the country, I’ll finally be learning Turkish next semester, a language I’ve had on my list for a very long time.
CAIS offers an extensive array of courses focused on the history, (geo)politics, religions, and languages of the Middle East and Central Asia. What all prospective students should consider is that whether it be Morocco or Egypt, Turkey or Iran, Uzbekistan even, travelling to one of these countries and engaging with their people and culture becomes so much more rewarding after having studied at CAIS–indeed, an experience worth cherishing for life.