We met with Rik Zeverijn, an Assurance Associate from the Netherlands. Rik is a UG Arabic alumni studying for Arabic and History at the University of Edinburgh. In an interview with Rik, we asked him the following questions:

Tell us about yourself

My name is Rik Zeverijn, and I’m part of the 2018 University of Edinburgh IMES class, when I graduated in Arabic and History. Coming from the Netherlands, and having moved around a lot as a child, I wasn’t expecting to love this city so much, but I stuck around. I currently still live in Edinburgh, working in the finance industry to supplement my undergraduate degree with some important real world experiences.

How long have you been studying Arabic? What is your current level?

I started in 2014, when I embarked on my university career. I’d say right now I’m fairly adept at it, especially reading and writing, but I need to work on my dialect!

What made you decide to study the Arabic language and culture?  What & who inspired you?  What were your motivations?

My parents work for the Dutch foreign service, and it was when my father was posted to the Israel/Palestine desk when I realized that I wanted to learn Arabic. The issues discussed at dinner table conversations were just so interesting and multi-faceted that I just had to learn more. I felt that the easiest way to go about that end was to learn the local parlance, and my Arabic path started.

Have you had any ups and downs while learning Arabic?

I’d say my year abroad was definitely a massive positive. I talked so much Arabic, made great friends, and generally it was the period in my life where I learnt the most about myself! In contrast, right now I struggle to juggle work and Arabic revision (I aim to do at least 3 hours a week), so I need to pick it back up again.

What careers are you planning to pursue (or have embarked on) using your Arabic language skills?

I’d like to combine my work now with my degree and hopefully enter the field of humanitarian aid, maybe find employment at an NGO in Syria/Lebanon/Palestine. I’m wired into a training contract right now, but in three years time I’d like to return to the Middle-East!

What does it take to become an excellent student of Arabic? What recommendations would you give to anyone interested in learning Arabic?

Practice, practice, practice. Simple as that. For me, drilling the intricacies of the root system also really helped, as I found it basically triples your vocabulary. I also find listening to different people speak highly useful, as it forces you to think outwith your normal comprehension.

What’s your favourite Arabic word?

قشعريرة – somehow an onomatopoeia of goosebumps

What is your least favourite Arabic word? Why?

حرب – a word too often used in the media unfortunately

Who’s your most inspiring Arab personality?

Edward Said

What is your favourite place in the Arab World?


What is your favourite Arabic quote?

حط عقلك في راسك – put your head in your mind

What is your favourite book? Why?

رجال في الشمس
Unfortunately I haven’t read all of it (I admit I have never finished a book in Arabic), but this one is the one I’d like to finish most. It’s a truly visceral account of a refugee’s life, and it’s beautifully written to boot.


If you have studied Arabic before (no matter how little), we would love to hear from you. To share your story, please  go to SUBMIT .To find out more about the MyJourneytoArabic initiative, go to ABOUT


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