My studies at ANU certainly helped give me the skill set to navigate my current role and my career in the Middle East.
I work with the International Organisation for Migration, which is part of the UN. I’m based in Erbil, which is in northern Iraq, and the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region. While my path to working in the Middle East after studying at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies was not linear, my studies at ANU certainly helped give me the skill set to navigate my current role and my career in the Middle East.
Looking back at my studies at CAIS, I think one of the benefits of Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies is that it forces you to be interdisciplinary: my minor made me equally comfortable navigating history, sociology, anthropology, and political economy. I think that’s hugely important, because the vast majority of careers these days are, by nature, interdisciplinary.
As an undergraduate at ANU, I did two summer schools: one at Koc University in Istanbul, and one at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, as well as a study tour to Palestine which I was invited on after interning at the Palestinian Delegation in Canberra. Coincidentally, the only person I knew when moving to Erbil was a fellow ANU graduate who had been on that same study trip to Palestine with me – so the connections you make as a student will also serve you into the future. Exposure and experience really make your in-classroom learning all the richer.
I feel exceptionally lucky to be working with the IOM in Iraq, focusing on topics I’m passionate about and where there is a real sense that the work I do matters. My advice to students would be to pursue the things that really excite you, that make you want to do additional tutorial readings, that give you the feeling to just jump on a plane and go.