We met with Camille Sonderegger, a PG Arabic student from Switzerland who is a Master’s student in Middle Eastern Studies with Advanced Arabic at the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies department, University of Edinburgh. In an interview with Camille , we asked her the following questions:
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Camille Sonderegger, I am 25 years old and a Swiss national. I am studying for MSc International Relations of the Middle East with Advanced Arabic at the University of Edinburgh.
What made you decide to study the Arabic language and culture? What & who inspired you? What were your motivations?
I cannot remember exactly what made me decide to study Arabic as it was a combination of many things. My parents worked for the ICRC in many Arabic speaking countries (such as Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, Yemen) before I was born and hence there were always books around at home about the Middle East. When I was fourteen, I started reading books about Palestine and started getting involved in Palestine Solidarity Campaigns. This made me want to learn Arabic in the first place. Hence, I decided to move to Syria after High School to see whether I would also like living and working in Arab speaking countries. I found a job in Damascus and had an amazing 15 months in Syria which confirmed my wish to study Arabic in order to be able to work and live in the ME.
Have you had any ups and downs while learning Arabic?
Of course, I have had ups and downs as I reached a point of stagnation where I felt like I just needed to live in the ME to improve my Arabic instead of continuing my Undergraduate with Arabic.
What does it take to become an excellent student of Arabic?
It takes something, which I unfortunately lack, which is not being scared of making mistakes and just to speak Arabic when in Arabic speaking countries.
What careers are you planning to pursue using your Arabic language skills?
I would definitely like to work and live in the Middle East in the humanitarian setting. However, as I have had experiences with some NGOs, I think I would rather do something that is really hands on with the people from the area or be a field delegate with the ICRC.
What recommendations would you give to anyone interested in learning Arabic?
Immerse yourself with the people from Arabic speaking countries, practice it as much as possible and don’t be afraid of making mistakes