In November 2016 Dr Mat Hardy and A/Prof Sally Totman Marshall took 24 undergraduates majoring in Middle East Studies to Jordan and Qatar. This study tour is a chance for some of our senior students to transition away from the lecture theatre and experience the region they have been studying, as well as to get them thinking harder about what they would like to do after they graduate.
The choice of Jordan and Qatar as destinations was intended to showcase two Arab monarchies experiencing different ends of the economic scale as well as differing demographic and social challenges. The trip included a series of professional meetings as well as some sightseeing and cultural experiences.
Some highlights of the trip included:
• The first ever official meeting at the new Australian Embassy in Doha. The embassy had only been opened the evening before by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
• A visit to an UNRWA health clinic and primary school run for Palestinian refugees in Jordan.
• A meeting with the Australian ambassador and Deputy Chief of Mission to the court of King Abdullah II of Jordan.
• A wonderful session with some post-grad English literature students at the University of Jordan where all the students discussed women’s rights issues in the Middle East.
• A briefing from World Vision in Amman on the Syrian refugee crisis.
• A rare chance for Deakin students to interact with some young Yemenis who were doing English intensive courses at AMIDEAST, the US State Department’s educational outreach provider in the region.
• A very frank discussion with the Israeli ambassador to Jordan regarding relations between the two countries and the situation for Palestinian refugees.
• Sightseeing in places such as Petra, Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea and the Qatari desert.
Overall the tour was a very fruitful couple of weeks that was rewarding for the participants, as well as building relationships with local stakeholders for future Middle East study tours. Judging from feedback the students seemed to gain a great deal from the trip, with them all reporting learning outcomes in knowledge of the region, but more importantly, a wider awareness of where they wanted to direct their post-Deakin career aspirations. Some have already begun to enquire about internships with the organisations we spent time with. Others are now considering enrolment in Deakin’s MHA and MHL degrees once they complete their undergraduate studies. A further few are considering post-graduate research efforts focussed on the Middle East.