Prospective Majors FAQs

I am a freshman or sophomore interested in exploring the Near Eastern Studies major. What courses should I take?

NES 201 (Introduction to the Middle East) offers an accessible overview of the region and its history since the seventh century. Other good introductory courses for the major are NES 240 (Muslims and the Qur’an) and NES 269 (The Politics of Modern Islam). But you should feel free to begin with any NES course that strikes you as interesting! All will offer you a foothold in the range of subjects and approaches offered by the department.

When should I begin language study?

We encourage you to begin studying Arabic, Persian, Turkish, or Hebrew as early as possible. If you come late to the major, however, you may feasibly begin language study in the fall of your junior year. We encourage you to consider summer language study and study abroad options, both of which may allow you to gain advanced language proficiency by the end of your senior year even if you came late to the major.

I already know that I want to major in Near Eastern Studies. May I declare early?

Yes. Please see the early concentration guidelines.

What can I gain as an NES major that’s different from what I’ll gain by studying the Near East as a student in a methods-focused department such as History, Politics, Comparative Literature, or SPI?

Rather than focusing on a single discipline or methodological approach, the Department of Near Eastern Studies focuses intensively on a single region, defined broadly: we include in the study of the “Near East” not just the Arab countries, Turkey, Iran, and Israel, but also the countries of South Asia (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh), the Caucasus, and Central Asia. As an NES major you will learn to use many different scholarly methodologies while gaining a deep and wide-ranging familiarity with the languages, history, societies, politics, cultures, and literatures of this specific region. Our students receive an unusual amount of personal attention and enjoy considerable flexibility to pursue their own interests. Near Eastern Studies students have been able to apply their learning directly in careers in international business, banking, investment, consulting, the media, law, insurance, diplomacy, national security, relief work, and, with further graduate study, teaching and research.

What NES courses must majors take?

The only specific NES course you are required to take is NES 300, the Junior Seminar in Research Methods. You must also achieve at least 107-level proficiency in a Near Eastern language and take seven other departmental courses that fulfill a set of flexible distribution requirements. These may include language courses beyond the 107 level, as well as introductory courses in a second Near Eastern language. Up to three may be cognate courses offered by other departments.

How are advisers assigned?

The department assigns advisers in the fall of your junior and senior years. If you're interested in working with a particular professor, you may contact him or her in advance of the fall semester to discuss your topic, and should also let the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Prof. Eve Krakowski (, know that you’ve done so. We cannot guarantee that we’ll accommodate such requests but we do take them seriously and do our best to honor them.  Most advisers are professors from Near Eastern Studies, but exceptions can be made if the thesis topic warrants this.  

Do I have to major in Near Eastern Studies to earn a certificate in Near Eastern Language and Culture?

No. Any student who achieves proficiency in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, or Hebrew and fulfills the requirements may receive a Certificate in Language or Culture. Students must contact Mr. James LaRegina ( sometime during their senior year to arrange this.

How can I earn a certificate in Near Eastern Studies?

Students not majoring in NES but who are interested in the Near East may choose to earn a Certificate in Near Eastern Studies through the Program in Near Eastern Studies. See information on this certificate.