Q&A with Kim Quarantello

December 20, 2017
Kim Quarantello in Dubai
View of Dubai from the Burj Khalifa

Kim Quarantello is a second-year student in the AM in Middle Eastern Studies program.

Kim Quarantello in Dubai
View of Dubai from the Burj Khalifa
How did you become interested in Middle Eastern studies?

I became interested in Middle Eastern studies as an undergraduate at Wellesley College, where I studied Arabic after visiting a Lebanese friend in Beirut. I have been particularly invested in understanding American foreign policy decisions (and mistakes) in the region and I gained exposure to the role of domestic policy in shaping foreign policy while working on Capitol Hill. 

Why did you choose CMES?

I chose CMES for its interdisciplinary and flexible program as well as its rigorous language requirement and scholarship opportunities for language studies. The ability to take courses related to the Middle East at Harvard Divinity School, Kennedy School, and Law School—in addition to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences—has enhanced my learning experience and exposed me to a myriad of academic approaches and research methods. I also wanted to improve my Arabic language ability and the Arabic instruction at Harvard has been excellent. 

What are your research interests?

Currently, I am working on a master’s thesis that will explore the evolving conceptions of refugee and asylum law in Islamic jurisprudence. I hope to use this research to analyze current religious and demographic trends in refugee source and host countries, using Geographic Information Systems mapping to visually present data.  

What travel/research opportunities have you pursued during your time at Harvard?

In January 2017, I received funding to participate in a Kennedy School J-Term field study course, “Humanitarian Negotiations on the Frontlines of the Middle East.” The course took place in Israel and Palestine and provided exposure to government officials, NGO representatives, UN agencies, aid workers, and other actors engaged in this protracted political conflict. I additionally attended the Harvard Arab World Conference in Jordan over spring break, combined with visits to Muscat and Dubai to visit the same friend from college who first brought me to Beirut! 

What extracurriculars have you pursued?

Through my involvement in the Middle East Refugee Service Initiative, I have worked with fellow students to connect refugees from the Middle East who have resettled in Lowell, Massachusetts, with Arabic-speaking students at Harvard. We have organized social and cultural events at CMES and the Harvard Semitic Museum. I have also tutored at the Harvard Bridge Program, an adult education and training program open to University staff members who hope to improve their English speaking and writing skills or receive professional support to advance their Harvard careers. 

What advice would you offer a prospective student?

Take advantage of travel opportunities and make sure that you take classes with professors before they go on sabbatical!