Ross School - Senior Projects 2010
Mentor: Carrie Clark
Title: The Middle East in the Global Era: A Journey
Of all the worldŐs hotspots, none captures the attention and imagination of the West quite like the Middle East. Eager to see this dynamic place for myself, I spent six weeks this past summer living with a host family in Cairo, Egypt as a participant in the US State DepartmentŐs National Strategic Language Initiative for Youth. I used my personal journey, coupled with a long-standing interest in the Middle East and foreign affairs, as a jumping off point for my project. I wrote three papers discussing the region in a global context, dealing with the politics of Islamic dress in both the Arab and Western worlds, the effect of mass media on the democratization process and an analysis of the cityscape of Cairo as a reflection of its history as a world crossroads from the Middle Ages to the present day. In each, I tried to have a blend of first-person storytelling and scholarly research. I hope to draw on this experience in college, where I plan to study political science and international relations.
This project was the culmination of many years of interest in the history, culture, society and politics of the world at large. Since middle school, when I took two years of Arabic classes, I have been especially intrigued by these subjects as they related to the Middle East. In 11th grade, eager to further my study of the language, I applied for and received a State Department merit scholarship to spend the summer in Cairo studying Arabic.
I immediately decided to use my journey as inspiration for my Senior Project. In the lead-up to the trip, I started working with Ms. Clark, who became my mentor, and read several books (fiction and non-fiction) on the history and culture of the region. While there, I kept a detailed blog of events and observations in the hope I could refer back to it for content and tease out themes to use in my product. I also took a camera with me daily to get visual references.
When I returned, I began the work of sifting through all the information I had collected for patterns that could point me to essay topics. I eventually settled on three subjects to explore: the politics of Islamic dress in both the Middle East and the West, the relationship between media (especially satellite TV) and democratization in the Middle East and, finally, the history of Cairo as a vehicle to discuss the role of the region as the intersection point of people, cultures and ideologies from ancient Egyptian times to the present day.
Over the course of writing the three essays, my writing and research skills improved markedly. While my first essay took a month and 6 drafts to write, the second took three weeks and just three drafts. My third essay, despite being three times as long as the previous one, was accomplished in the same amount of time. I believe this was a result of my growing ability to anticipate my mentorŐs criticisms and self-edit accordingly, which has made me improve as a writer. I also simply write much faster now and find it easier to power through writerŐs block.
This project has not always been easy, nor fun, but in general my experience was positive. I learned a lot about a broad array of subjects and grew as a writer, researcher and person. The process has made me more confident that I have the skills necessary to complete similar or even larger endeavors moving foreword, and will be invaluable as I study International Relations in college.
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Community Member (Details)
Sally Booth, PhD
Associate Director of research, curriculum and professional development, Ross Institute