What Zohre says about the Master's in Middle Eastern Studies
Zohre Mehdizadeh from Iran, alumna, now working as a PhD at Laval University, Canada
Why did you apply for Lund University and the Master's in Middle Eastern Studies?
I did my Bachelor's in French literature in Iran. After my studies, I realised I was very interested in politics, mostly because of everything that was going on in the Middle East. I decided to study Middle Eastern studies to get more academic information on what was going on in the region.
I was looking for a more multicultural centre specifically focused on the Middle East. Two of my friends, who were both students at Lund University, told me about the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) and encouraged me to apply for the programme. They only told me good things about Lund University – and honestly all of it was true. I had read online that the programme was very multidisciplinary. I was interested in both politics and sociology, so it seemed like a perfect programme for me.
How did you like the programme?
CMES is a very warm and welcoming department that takes care of its students, not only academically but also socially. The programme prepares students for their future adventures, both if they want to pursue a non-academic career or a PhD.
Very often, we had lecturers coming from the Middle East, or scholars teaching at different universities around the world. CMES usually invited specialists within the area. Some of my best experiences in Lund and at CMES were, without a doubt, having the opportunity to get to know renowned scholars from different parts of the world. These well-known scholars helped make CMES a flourishing academic environment. They didn’t hesitate to pass their knowledge on to their students. I am really thankful to all CMES staff, particularly to the programme director and the director of the centre, who were always there to help us.
The centre has a Visiting Young Scholars Programme. Students who are conducting their Master's or PhD research on areas related to the Middle East are encouraged to apply for it. I applied for this scholarship and spent 4 months at the CMES in 2015. I cannot explain how good it felt to be back at the centre and be among the teachers who had greatly contributed to my achievements both at CMES and at Laval University.
Did you gain any practical experience during the programme?
Yes. As part of the programme requirements, students were encouraged to get an internship in a Middle Eastern country or to take some courses at a Middle Eastern university. I knew back then that I wanted to apply for a PhD programme in sociology, so I applied for a course at the Department of Sociology at the American University of Cairo. I got admitted, but due to some problems I couldn’t make it to Cairo. Instead, CMES recommended me to take courses at the Department of Gender Studies at Lund University, so that I could prepare myself for PhD studies. All of the other students went to the region, however: some went to Beirut, others to Palestine, Jordan or Iraq.
What did you write about for your thesis project?
My thesis was about the social relationship and the identity formation of Iranian youth on Facebook and in the blogosphere. I went to Iran for two months in 2011 to conduct interviews in Teheran, Iran. The professor whom I wrote my thesis with was a teacher at the American University of Cairo. A lot of us wrote our theses under the supervision of the professors from the Middle East.
Did you learn any languages at the programme?
Within the programme, we could study at least one language from the Middle Eastern region: Arabic, Persian, Turkish or Farsi. Since I already knew Persian, I decided to study Arabic. I had taken some Arabic classes in Iran. The teachers were all very helpful and professional. Thanks to them, I could enhance my Arabic.
How did you like Sweden?
I found the best of friends in Sweden. Everyone was so nice, so welcoming. I never felt any culture shock and I never faced any discrimination or racism. I really enjoyed living in Sweden.
What are you currently doing?
Right now, I am in Canada, studying at the French-speaking Laval University in Quebec City. I am doing my PhD here. My PhD project is a study of the masculine experience of immigration and of the familial changes among immigrants coming from the Middle East. I am also teaching this semester – a course on the socioeconomic structures of Middle Eastern societies. This is the first time a course on Middle Eastern societies is offered at the Department of Sociology at Laval University.
What are your aspirations for the future?
I would like to work for organisations helping immigrant families to settle and to integrate into the Canadian society. Working in academia is also very appealing. For me, however, the first priority is working with the establishments facilitating the social and economic inclusion of immigrant populations, especially those from Middle Eastern countries, into the Canadian society.
Many of the students from my programme are now doing PhDs in Europe or in North America, or have found jobs for which they had been trained at CMES. The international programme offered by CMES trains students for their future careers and provides them with unique opportunities to pursue a profession or to do PhDs, both inside and outside the Middle East.