lunduniversity.lu.se

Alumni interviews

Ferencz Thuroczy

Year of graduation: 2012
Job:
Editor, Communications Unit, Department for Intercultural Dialogue, Swedish Institute in Stockholm, Sweden

Why did you choose to take an MA in Middle Eastern Studies? 
I thought it would be a good opportunity for the future. My interest for Middle East springs from a book I read when I was twelve called “Behind the veil” by Jean Sasson. I later realized that the book is quite orientalist but I was only twelve and it inspired me to want to find out more about the Middle East. My dream was to go to Saudi Arabia and at fourteen I finally got to go there. Years later when I wanted to move away from Finland to study, Lund became the natural choice with its program for Arabic studies. Then when the international MA program in Middle Eastern Studies started in 2010 it was the natural choice for me.

What have you done after you graduated? 
I started working after my studies. Since then I am working with Sweden’s digital diplomacy towards the Middle East at the Swedish Institute in Stockholm. It means that we work with creating relations with the people in the whole region through different contact points. We expose people to information about Sweden. We do not necessarily promote Sweden, but we want to provide people with factual based information about Sweden. We work from the principle ‘show, don’t tell’, which means that we are showing what Sweden is already doing. We engage with people, we talk with them. Some people call it “public diplomacy”.

How did you find out about your current job?
One of my classmates sent me a message saying that I think this is your kind of job – and she was absolutely right!

What does a typical day at work look like? What do you do? 
My day usually starts out with going through my e-mail and then I log on to our social media networks: facebook, twitter, google + and instagram. I look at what is going on and if there is anything we need to take care of.  I look at results; what activities have engaged the audience and which haven’t. Then I have a lot of meetings, the Swedish way, and I plan for the future.

What helped you to find and get this job? 
I had unique skills sets I think, part of which I have gotten from CMES. I speak Arabic, I have a helicopter perspective on what works and doesn’t in different countries. I had an internship at CMES that helped me to get into social media and I was also an intern at Al-Jazeera. Both these experiences contributed to give me valuable experience when looking for a job.

What are your recommendations to other students that wish to pursue a career within your 'field'? Be unconventional! People tend to focus on things that are easy! Thinking about what kind of skills you want to gain is a good place to start when choosing where to go. Go to places that are challenging rather than going to places that are safe. Instead of choosing an organization in your city, try to go somewhere else to gain experience. Do not be afraid. We can all do this, but it takes time and courage.

Disa Kammars Larsson

Year of graduation: 2012
Job:
Program manager for Middle East and North Africa at Operation 1325, a women’s and peace organization for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, on women, peace and security.

Why an MA in Middle Eastern Studies? 
I had written my bachelor thesis on politics in Algeria at the CMES, so I was already familiar with the center.  The multidisciplinary approach to studying the Middle East and North Africa appealed to me but at the time there was no MA program offered. A year later, when I returned back from a three months trip to Iran, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon I had decided to proceed with my studies of the social, economic and political life of the MENA-region and I was happy to find that CMES had finally started up the MA program.

What have you done after you graduated? 
I have worked for two years as a program manager at Operation 1325, a women’s and peace organization for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, on women, peace and security. We build capacity and engage in dialogue, monitoring and advocacy for women’s right to take part in conflict management and peace processes. I manage our joint projects with women’s and peace organizations in the Middle East and North Africa. In addition, I have held a fellowship at   the Swedish Institute for Foreign Affairs where I worked on a research project on Transitional Justice processes in Libya following the fall of Qaddafi.

How did you find out about your current job?
The old fashioned way actually; through a job announcement.

What does a typical day at work look like? What do you do? 
I coordinate joint projects with partner organizations in the MENA region, usually through emails, Skype calls and physical meetings. I carry out trainings and workshops on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 with partner organizations, on themes such as advocacy strategies, human rights, dialogue projects etc. I try to stay updated on current events and I follow the political developments in the MENA-region. I engage in public debate and communicate the work that we do in social media and traditional media outlets. A typical day at the office includes meetings, phone calls, and drinking coffee, but I am also lucky to get the opportunity to travel all across the MENA-region to meet with amazingly strong and brave women’s rights activists.

What helped you to find and get this job? 
Thanks to the flexibility of the MA-program I enjoyed two semesters in the West Bank, studying Arabic while conducting a study for my Master thesis. The thesis examined the political strategies and modes of organizing among female activists who were organizers of the so called March 15 movement. The opportunity to live and study in the West Bank shaped my understanding the types of challenges that women activists face. In addition I had assisted the UNDP-office in Palestine in a minor study on UNSCR 1325 in the Palestinian occupied territories. I was lucky that my background was spot on for the position at Operation 1325 and I was recruited before finishing my thesis. Before beginning my MA, I had completed an internship and a short employment at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The experience of working at the MFA contributed to my understanding of Swedish development cooperation, which also was an advantage for the job.

What are your recommendations to other students that wish to pursue a career within your 'field'? 
I recommend the MA program at CMES to anyone interested in pursuing a career as a practitioner or within the academia in the field of Middle East and North Africa studies. My recommendation is to spend as much time as you can studying or working in the MENA-countries. Try to combine internships with your studies. When you collect data for your thesis, try to reach out to civil society organizations or research institutions in the field for guidance and access to data. Make use of the contacts with scholars and practitioners in your field that the MA program offers.