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Arm457

Middle Eastern Studies/NELC Masters/PhD

157 posts in this topic

Hi everyone, I was just wondering who was applying for a masters or PhD in Middle Eastern or Near Eastern Studies.

i just graduated from a top 30 US school. I am not a native speaker of a middle eastern language, but hoping to learn Arabic and go on to a Comp Lit PhD. 

Hoping to meet some similar people, and good luck to us all! 

 

Edited by rising_star
to update title

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I previously applied to some programs and will reapply for the fall so perhaps this will be helpful based on my research. One thing you might consider is heading to the Middle East for six months to study Arabic in Jordan and then return to the US to apply to programs. If you're doing Comp Lit, you might want to focus on Near Eastern Studies programs as opposed to Middle Eastern Studies. If you have no work experience related to the Middle East and your undergrad degree was not related, you'll likely have difficulty getting into a top program. The University of Chicago is usually considered the top program for Middle Eastern Studies and that master's degree would give you a good foundation for later Near Eastern PhD studies. Georgetown has an M.A. in Arab Studies that has a great reputation. Harvard's CMES has a good reputation but I've actually heard from several people that Princeton is not that great despite the Ivy League name.

If you don't have ME-related experience and don't want to get it before applying to programs, I suggest you look at middle-tier programs such as the Jackson School at the University of Washington, Indiana University's NELC, UT Austin, GWU, University of Michigan. You might want to consider American University of Beirut to get some ME experience during your graduate studies. Perhaps someone else has experience there and could let you know what it's like. Good luck.

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Hey I PM'd you. I wasn't necessarily trying to assess my personal candidacy, but just wanted to sort of start a "2016 Group" because there isn't one for NES yet...

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I agree with the previous posters. You're going to have a hard time doing a PhD in NES without sufficient previous language preparation, especially in comp lit. I would suggest applying the MAPSS at U Chicago before doing any PhD applications. The admissions rate for MAPSS is significantly lower and sometimes there's financial aid awarded, if you are a promising candidate. 

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Would it be possible for you to include NELC in the topic title, Arm457? Historically, the forum has blended the two into one topic.

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^I want to change the thread to "Middle Eastern Studies/NELC - 2016 Application Cycle" If a moderator sees this message, please change the title of my thread. I don't know how to do it. 

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The basic situation in the field right now in my experience is that you will not get into a top PhD right out of undergrad unless you are REALLY extraordinary, but you can still get into the top MA programs with little more than interest, general aptitude, and writing skills.

The thing with languages is they just take time.  For that purpose, UChicago MAPSS is more or less useless; you are strongly discouraged from taking language classes and have to start thinking about your MA thesis in the fall of your first (and only!) year.  It can be a great program for students in a very specific situation, but I would not recommend it for learning Arabic or for Middle Eastern Studies in general.  UChicago CMES, on the other hand, is a very solid program that will give you a good sense of what the field is like.  I got in with the most funding they give, with almost zero background in ME studies before applying, and came out of it with a great set of PhD offers.  However, that represents the best case scenario.  The worst case scenario is that you have spent quite a bit of money and time on a program that is not at all strong in (for instance) modern ME politics.  If your real goal is learning Arabic to use for other purposes, rather than a firm grounding in the field or a better class of job offers, I would not recommend an MA.

Edited by babur

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I've been looking for this thread for ages! I applied to a NELC PhD program (in Comparative Semitics) at U Chicago, now waiting to hear in late Feb I suppose. 

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Hello EnglishMuffin, 

I'm in the same boat (although, I'm not applying for Comparative Semitics, rather Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East). Those in NELC are very quiet this year for some reason. 

 

Edited by Almaqah Thwn

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Hi! Glad to find this thread. I applied to Northwestern and U of Chicago. Would like to specialize in Modern Middle Eastern History at Northwestern and Islamic and Ottoman History at U of Chicago. I am from the Middle East and I have two Masters Degrees; one in politics GPA 3.2 (from the Middle East) and the other in History GPA 4.0 (from Purdue.) I'm not happy with my GRE scores but I am confident of my written and spoken English and Arabic. I also know French and German at a beginners level. I am now working on those two languages and the Turkish language as well. Even though I have a rich CV with diverse work and travel experience, I'm still nervous. My only weakness is the GRE scores and I hope to get accepted in any of those programs :|

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Yeah I absolutely bombed the math part of the GRE (I'm British, haven't done any mathematics in 11 years at the age of 27) but I did great on the other parts. I don't have a GPA as such but I got good degrees from good universities in relevant primary and secondary languages and I think my sample and statement were compelling. U Chicago is literally the only place that offers a course like this so I have a lot of eggs in that particular basket.

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On 19/12/2015 at 11:39 PM, Almaqah Thwn said:

Hello EnglishMuffin, 

I'm in the same boat (although, I'm not applying for Comparative Semitics, rather Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East). Those in NELC are very quiet this year for some reason. 

 

Maybe there just aren't any this year? *crosses fingers*

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Thank you Arm457 for starting this as I have been waiting for for long time. 

I plan to research the Shia Islam religious institutions in Iraq. The major challenging is that I am not finding faculty who focus on that topic . Most related faculty are Iranians interested on the cultural Iranian side of Shi'ism. the only good fit I found so far is Yitzhak Nakash (and so I plan to apply to Brandeis).

I applied to Georgetown's Islamic studies PhD but I don't expect much out of it. My weaknesses are: low GRE, odd background. My strengths (or so I thought) are: native Arabic speaker, a Master degree from the American Univ in Cairo with 3.7  GPA, few publications on ME politics. I may end up trying again next year. 

I feel I am weak in department politics (academic fit and POIs) so I built my Georgetown's SOP without fully research their program. I am also applying to Arizona, Cornell, U. of Washington and Brandeis. I hope somebody can help advice me on how to approach Arizona and the other departments in terms of POI and SOP. 

 

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On Tuesday, December 22, 2015 at 10:16 AM, englishmuffin said:

Maybe there just aren't any this year? *crosses fingers*

Haha, I know that I've had that desire a few times this year. 

 

Also, in what languages were you looking to focus, Englishmuffin? I know UT Austin's Hebrew Bible program has great faculty for doing comparative semitic work as well. Rebecca Hasselbach-Andee at the Comparative Semitics program in Chicago actually studied under John Huehnergard, if I recall correctly. Furthermore, Hackett and Pat-el are also excellent, the latter of whom has a focus in Arabic. 

Edited by Almaqah Thwn

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7 hours ago, Almaqah Thwn said:

Haha, I know that I've had that desire a few times this year. 

 

Also, in what languages were you looking to focus, Englishmuffin? I know UT Austin's Hebrew Bible program has great faculty for doing comparative semitic work as well. Rebecca Hasselbach-Andee at the Comparative Semitics program in Chicago actually studied under John Huehnergard, if I recall correctly. Furthermore, Hackett and Pat-el are also excellent, the latter of whom has a focus in Arabic. 

I think I'm actually going to change my username, it sounds ridiculous and not that whimsical any more. I e-mailed Profs Pat-El and Huehnergard who said they couldn't really offer a focus on comparative Semitics from the outset of the program, and that I'd need to be ready to weight my studies very heavily towards one language, which I'm not really willing or able to do since I'm in it for the truly comparative aspect. So Arabic is the language I have but Prof Hasselbach said new languages - which the Chicago course emphasises - can shift your focus, so I'm ready and willing for that to happen. I would have liked to apply to U Texas but my academic profile and orientation don't really support it.

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I like your username, Englishmuffin :) 

I still have no idea how fluent they'd want us to be in the required languages. I only know two fluently and two on a beginner's level. I also cannot stop thinking of how focused my topic should be and whether it will be considered academically fit. I didn't ask my POI if he is taking any students next year - anyone asked such questions? All I got from him is that the topics I have in mind are all doable at NELC dept. (University of Chicago). I'm worried because I applied to two universities only. I cannot relocate. Chances of getting an offer, in my case, is very, very slim. Yikes! :\

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Yeah I have no idea either. The website says a thorough grounding - which I have? - as well as French and German, which I definitely have. I asked general questions about the course - I assumed the POI would have said if they weren't taking students. She did say also she didn't expect me to know a thesis topic, so I indicated a general area of interest in my statement.

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That's great! You'd probably get an offer then because they do care that you get a high pass in the languages required (I guess towards the end of the second year.) One of my POIs told me that I must give them a specific topic. I did not send a general area of interest, I was a little specific -but I'm sure that I'll still have to narrow it down. I like what your POI said. They shouldn't expect us to be married to the topic we choose right now. There is a big chance that we will change it down the road :\

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Sorry full disclosure - she said she didn't expect me know a thesis title, rather than topic, but that a general area of interest would be good to mention. Does anyone know if the NELC department does interviews?

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(Y) I, personally, haven't heard of any done before - but everything is possible. They might.

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I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but apparently Chicago's NELC department already has a shortlist of qualified applicants to whom they have sent requests around January 13th for an additional three minute video. While I'm not too familiar with their recruitment process, I'm banking that it is not a good sign if you did not receive such request...

Edited by Almaqah Thwn

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Yeah I did see that after I posted but it seems a bit bizarre? Might be for one particular discipline within NELC if it's oversubscribed? Who knows?

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