Exploring Near Eastern Studies at Berkeley University

July 5, 2023
By AdmissionSight
Photo of happy young Arabian women students using laptop computer and holding books in park

Exploring Near Eastern Studies at Berkeley University

Are you interested in learning about the history, culture, and languages of the Near East? If so, you might want to consider studying Near Eastern Studies at Berkeley University. Berkeley is home to one of the best programs in this field, offering students a wide range of courses, research opportunities, and resources.

In this article, we’ll explore the different aspects of Berkeley’s Near Eastern Studies program, and see what makes it so attractive to students and scholars alike.

Why Berkeley University is a top choice for Near Eastern Studies

What sets Berkeley apart from other universities when it comes to Near Eastern Studies? There are several reasons why students and faculty choose Berkeley for this field of study. First and foremost, the university has a long tradition of excellence in Near Eastern Studies, dating back to the early 20th century.

Many of the leading scholars in this field have been associated with Berkeley, including some of the pioneers of modern archaeology, linguistics, and anthropology. As such, Berkeley has a deep well of expertise, resources, and connections that students can benefit from.

Another factor that distinguishes Berkeley from other universities is its location. Berkeley is located in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is home to a large and diverse population of people from the Near East and its diaspora. This makes it an ideal place for students to interact with the local community, attend cultural events, and learn firsthand about the region’s customs, traditions, and politics.

Finally, Berkeley offers a wide range of programs and resources that are tailored to the needs and interests of students in Near Eastern Studies. These include language programs, study-abroad programs, research fellowships, and academic and career advising. There is also a vibrant community of scholars and students who are engaged in collaborative research projects, conferences, and other activities.

In addition to the above, Berkeley University has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. This is reflected in the university’s Near Eastern Studies program, which emphasizes the importance of understanding and appreciating the diversity of the region’s cultures, religions, and languages.

Students are encouraged to explore the complexities of the Near East and to engage in critical thinking about the region’s history, politics, and social issues.

multi national students studying together

Furthermore, Berkeley’s Near Eastern Studies program is known for its interdisciplinary approach. Students have the opportunity to take courses in a variety of fields, including history, anthropology, literature, and political science. This allows them to gain a broad understanding of the region and to develop a range of skills that are valuable in a variety of careers, including academia, government, and non-profit organizations.

The history and evolution of Near Eastern Studies at Berkeley University

The study of Near Eastern Studies at Berkeley dates back to the early 20th century, when the university established a department of Oriental languages and literature. Over time, the focus of the program shifted to encompass a wider range of disciplines, including archaeology, history, anthropology, art history, and political science.

Today, the Near Eastern Studies program at Berkeley is one of the most comprehensive and interdisciplinary programs in the country.

One of the hallmarks of the Berkeley program is its emphasis on primary research. Faculty and students are actively engaged in excavations, fieldwork, and archival research in the Near East and beyond. They also collaborate with scholars and institutions from around the world, working on projects that range from deciphering ancient scripts to analyzing contemporary political movements.

Another notable aspect of the Berkeley program is its commitment to training students in the languages of the Near East. The program offers courses in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Hebrew, Aramaic, and other languages, as well as courses in the literature, culture, and history of these regions.

For students who are interested in studying abroad, Berkeley has partnerships with universities in the Near East, where they can immerse themselves in the local cultures and languages.

The Near Eastern Studies program at Berkeley has also been at the forefront of digital humanities research. Faculty and students use cutting-edge technology to analyze and preserve cultural heritage sites, manuscripts, and artifacts. They also create digital archives and databases that are accessible to scholars and the public alike, making it easier to study and understand the rich history and culture of the Near East.

Finally, the Berkeley program is committed to promoting diversity and inclusivity in the field of Near Eastern Studies. The program actively recruits and supports students from underrepresented backgrounds, and offers courses and events that explore issues of race, gender, and identity in the Near East.

This commitment to diversity and inclusivity has helped to create a vibrant and dynamic community of scholars and students at Berkeley, who are dedicated to advancing our understanding of the Near East and its place in the world.

Meet the professors and students who make up the Near Eastern Studies department

One of the things that makes Berkeley’s Near Eastern Studies program so vibrant is its community of scholars and students. The program attracts faculty and students from around the world, who bring with them a diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. Some of the leading scholars in the field are associated with the Berkeley program, including specialists in archaeology, history, linguistics, and political science.

At the heart of the program are its students. Berkeley Near Eastern Studies students are a dynamic and engaged group, who are passionate about the region and its cultures. They come from a variety of academic disciplines and backgrounds, and are united by their fascination with the Near East.

students looking to teacher sitting at their desk

Many students are involved in research projects, and some have published articles and books based on their findings. Others are active in student organizations, cultural events, and outreach programs.

The Near Eastern Studies department at Berkeley offers a wide range of courses that cover the history, culture, and politics of the region. Students can choose from courses on ancient civilizations, modern politics, literature, and religion.

The department also offers language courses in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish, which are taught by native speakers and provide students with the opportunity to develop their language skills.

In addition to its academic offerings, the Near Eastern Studies department at Berkeley is also known for its outreach programs. The department hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including lectures, film screenings, and cultural festivals. These events are open to the public and provide an opportunity for students and community members to learn more about the Near East and its cultures.

The department also sponsors study abroad programs, which allow students to travel to the region and experience its culture firsthand.

A day in the life of a Near Eastern Studies student at Berkeley University

So, what does a typical day look like for a Near Eastern Studies student at Berkeley? It varies, of course, depending on the student’s interests, goals, and schedule. But here’s one possible scenario:

8:00am – Wake up and check email for any announcements from professors or department heads.

9:00am – Attend a lecture on ancient Aramaic inscriptions, taught by a world-renowned specialist in the field.

11:00am – Meet with a study group to prepare for an upcoming exam in Arabic grammar and syntax.

12:00pm – Grab lunch at the campus food court, and chat with a classmate who just returned from a summer program in Amman, Jordan.

2:00pm – Attend a seminar on the political dynamics of the Middle East, led by a visiting professor from Lebanon.

4:00pm – Work on a research project in the library, using primary sources in Persian and Ottoman Turkish.

6:00pm – Attend a talk by a visiting scholar on the role of Islam in contemporary Iranian society.

8:00pm – Meet up with friends at a local cafe, and discuss the day’s events over tea and pastries.

10:00pm – Return to the dorm room and review notes from the day’s lectures and seminars.

11:00pm – Skim through assigned readings for the next day’s classes, taking notes and highlighting important points.

12:00am – Relax with a book on Middle Eastern history or culture, or watch a documentary on a related topic.

2:00am – Finally, turn off the lights and get some rest, knowing that tomorrow will bring another exciting day of learning and discovery.

How Berkeley’s Near Eastern Studies program prepares graduates for careers in academia, government, and beyond

Many students who study Near Eastern Studies at Berkeley go on to pursue careers in academia, government, or other professions. Berkeley’s program provides students with a strong foundation in critical thinking, research skills, and language proficiency, which are essential for success in many fields.

A woman with her fellow students working on a project.

The program also offers a range of resources and services to help students prepare for their future careers, including:

  • Academic advising and career counseling
  • Opportunities for internships and fellowships
  • Networking events and career fairs
  • Alumni mentorship programs

Additionally, the Near Eastern Studies program at Berkeley offers students the opportunity to participate in research projects and study abroad programs. These experiences allow students to gain hands-on experience in their field of study and develop a deeper understanding of the cultures and languages they are studying.

The program also encourages students to engage in interdisciplinary studies, which can broaden their knowledge and skillset.

The role of technology in advancing the study of Near Eastern Studies at Berkeley University

As in many fields, technology has played an increasingly important role in the study of Near Eastern Studies at Berkeley. From digital archives to virtual field trips, technology has opened up new avenues for research, education, and collaboration. Some of the ways that technology is being used in the program include:

  • Online language tutorials and practice sessions
  • Mapping and GIS tools for visualizing spatial data
  • 3D modeling and printing of archaeological artifacts
  • Text-mining and corpus analysis for studying linguistic patterns
  • Virtual classroom and teleconferencing technologies for remote instruction and collaboration

By harnessing the power of technology, the Near Eastern Studies program at Berkeley is able to reach more students, conduct more complex research projects, and share its findings with a wider audience. As the field continues to evolve, technology will likely play an even greater role in shaping the ways in which Near Eastern Studies is studied and practiced.

One of the most exciting developments in the use of technology in Near Eastern Studies at Berkeley is the use of virtual reality (VR) technology. With VR, students and researchers can explore ancient sites and artifacts in a fully immersive and interactive way. This technology allows for a level of engagement and understanding that was previously impossible through traditional methods.

A woman talking to a man with a VR in an office.

Additionally, VR can be used to recreate historical events and scenarios, providing a unique perspective on the past. As VR technology continues to improve and become more accessible, it has the potential to revolutionize the way in which Near Eastern Studies is taught and studied.

An overview of the courses offered in the Near Eastern Studies program at Berkeley University

The Near Eastern Studies program at Berkeley offers a wide range of courses that cover a broad spectrum of disciplines and topics. Some of the courses that are regularly offered include:

  • Introduction to Islamic art and architecture
  • The history and politics of modern Iran
  • Archaeology of ancient Mesopotamia
  • Language and society in the Arab world
  • The Ottoman empire and its legacy
  • Israeli-Palestinian conflict and peace negotiations
  • Religion and politics in the Middle East
  • Women and gender in the Islamic world

These courses are designed to provide students with a solid grounding in the history, culture, and language of the Near East, while also introducing them to the latest research and methodologies in the field. Most courses are open to students from any academic major, and do not require any prior knowledge of the region or its languages.

In addition to the courses listed above, the Near Eastern Studies program also offers a number of specialized seminars and workshops that allow students to delve deeper into specific topics and issues. These seminars are typically smaller in size and are led by faculty members who are experts in their respective fields.

Some recent seminar topics have included “The Arab Spring and its aftermath,” “Jewish-Muslim relations in the Middle Ages,” and “The role of women in the Iranian Revolution.” These seminars provide students with the opportunity to engage in in-depth discussions and debates, and to develop their research and analytical skills.

Fellowships, grants, and other opportunities for students pursuing Near Eastern Studies at Berkeley University

The Near Eastern Studies program at Berkeley offers a wide range of opportunities for students to pursue research, study abroad, internships, and other activities related to their field of study. Some of the opportunities that are available include:

  • The Mark Van De Mieroop Scholarship for Archaeology, which supports students conducting archaeological research in the Near East
  • The Ellen and Leonard Blavatnik Internship in Middle Eastern Studies, which provides funding for students to work with nonprofits, government agencies, or research institutions in the Near East or with refugees in the United States.
  • The Abbas and Shukri Sharara Fellowship for Palestinian Studies, which supports graduate students conducting research in Palestine or on the Palestinian refugee crisis.
  • The Alan M. and Nathalie P. Voorhees Fellowship in Iranian Studies, which supports graduate students conducting research in Iran or on Iranian history, politics, or culture.
  • The Near Eastern Studies Study Abroad Program, which offers students the opportunity to study abroad in locations such as Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and Egypt.

These opportunities are highly competitive, and require that applicants demonstrate a high level of academic achievement, research potential, and commitment to the field of Near Eastern Studies. However, they are also extremely rewarding, providing students with the chance to deepen their knowledge and skills, and to make a meaningful contribution to the field.

A woman writing an essay.

In addition to these opportunities, the Near Eastern Studies program at Berkeley also offers a variety of extracurricular activities for students to engage with the community and further their understanding of the region. These include guest lectures, film screenings, cultural events, and student-led clubs and organizations.

Students can also participate in research projects and collaborate with faculty members on ongoing research initiatives. These activities provide students with a well-rounded education and help them develop a deeper appreciation for the complexities of the Near East.


As we’ve seen, studying Near Eastern Studies at Berkeley University offers an exciting and rewarding opportunity to learn about one of the most complex and fascinating regions in the world. From its deep tradition of scholarship to its cutting-edge research and technologies, the Near Eastern Studies program at Berkeley is an exceptional place to pursue this field of study.

Whether you’re interested in ancient history, contemporary politics, or cultural traditions, Berkeley has something to offer for everyone. We hope that this article has given you a glimpse into the rich and diverse world of Near Eastern Studies at Berkeley, and has inspired you to explore the field further.

Additionally, the Near Eastern Studies program at Berkeley offers a wide range of opportunities for students to engage with the local community and gain hands-on experience. From internships at local museums and cultural centers to study abroad programs in the Middle East, students have the chance to apply their knowledge and skills in real-world settings.

These experiences not only enhance their education but also prepare them for future careers in fields such as academia, diplomacy, and international business. Overall, studying Near Eastern Studies at Berkeley is not only intellectually stimulating but also practical and career-oriented.

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