Nicholas Norberg is a first-year student in the AM in Middle Eastern Studies program.
How did you become interested in Middle Eastern studies?
I became interested in Middle Eastern studies through my love of language acquisition. I studied linguistics as an undergraduate, and undertook intensive study of both Arabic and Turkish, but I did not pursue many courses in history, politics, or religious studies. I saw Middle Eastern studies as a way to blend my interest in history, politics, and religion while continuing to fulfill my interest in language and find ways to apply the language skills I had already acquired.
Why did you choose CMES?
CMES addressed my career and academic interests, but the program here offered me the greatest flexibility in terms of coursework of any program to which I applied. The opportunity to pursue coursework at any of Harvard's schools, and across multiple disciplines, was highly appealing to me. I was also drawn to the advanced-level language courses CMES offered, especially the advanced Arabic curriculum.
What are your research interests?
I am interested in modern Middle Eastern history and politics, especially the rise and evolution of political ideologies in Turkey and the former Ottoman Arab territories. I have gravitated towards the study of Syria, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula in my exploration of the emergence of the states we know as the modern Middle East.What do you like best about studying at Harvard?
I have been struck by the willingness of faculty and graduate students to engage in both formal and informal settings on their research interests. I have already encountered inspiring researchers and students who have readily offered advice on my own interests, and I find that collaborative approach to academic study to be one of Harvard's best qualities.
What do you like best about living in Cambridge?
The proximity to Boston is a major asset to living in Cambridge. The city has a rich history and artistic scene, and I have enjoyed getting to know Boston's museum and arts community from living in Cambridge. Harvard boasts plenty of museums, but I have also found the city of Boston to be quite accessible from our location on this side of the river.
What travel/research opportunities have you pursued during your time at Harvard?
I traveled to Tunisia in January 2018 with a group of graduate students to gain exposure to Tunisia's cultural heritage, and I benefitted hugely from the research staff at Harvard's Tunisia Center (especially Sihem!). The trip included visits to Tunisia's ancient sites as well as contemporary landmarks, and I appreciated the study tour's focus on showcasing the full scope of Tunisian history. In the summer of 2018, I will travel to Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey, to complete Turkish language training.
What kinds of extracurriculars have you pursued at Harvard?
I became a writer and editor for the Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy, along with several CMES classmates. I have found working on the journal to be an enjoyable way to keep my journalistic writing skills sharp while giving me an excuse to justify reading the news as often as I can! I also attend as many of the CMES extracurricular lectures as I can, and I work part-time as a barista in the Cafe Gato Rojo on campus.
What are your plans after finishing your degree?
I plan to pursue further education after finishing my degree, and am preparing to apply to doctoral programs.
What advice would you offer a prospective student?
Build as much time into your schedule for talking with your professors and fellow students as possible! You will learn just as much (if not more) from your peers and faculty outside the classroom as you will when you are physically in lecture. I would also recommend getting to know the Harvard library system as well as you can—reading random books off the shelf while browsing is a great way to procrastinate while still feeling productive!