Megan Zimmerer (Class of 2018)

  • photo of Megan Zimmererhonors senior double major in International Studies and French
  • minors in Arabic and Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies
  • from Finneytown, OH
  • member of Model Arab League and Arabic Language Club
  • spent 10 weeks in Amman, Jordan studying Arabic and spending Ramadan with a host family (Summer 2016)
  • interviewed representatives from the United Nations' Department of Peacekeeping Operations about French military operations in Mali (August 2017)
"It's good to go to lectures and events outside class that may be relevant to your studies…Being persistent in seeking out those opportunities, getting to know your professors and other students, and simply getting more involved with the material outside the classroom will make a big difference!"

Why Miami?

"I had studied French in high school, but when I graduated I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. So I took a year off and started studying Arabic on my own. A lot of this decision was facilitated by my religion, which is Islam, and I began looking into colleges that had at least a minor in Arabic. Miami soon caught my attention. At the time I was also interested in biology, so I came in as pre-med with a biology major.

"During my first year at Miami I quickly fell in love with the greater depth of my classes. However, biology didn't end up being the path I chose to follow. Because I loved learning languages and already had some background in French and Arabic, during my second semester I noticed that a lot of students in my Miami language classes were in political science and international studies. In talking to them I began developing a similar interest, which encouraged me to switch from biology to international studies as a major.

Arabic writing on a classroom blackboard

"When I was in seventh grade, I'd decided I'd be a doctor, and I'd never really faltered from that dream until I came to Miami. Although I realized that I didn't have the passion for science that I'd expected, I was able to quickly divert my passion instead into international relations and languages. I'm now all the happier that I did!"

Best Miami Experiences

"I've joined several student organizations, such as the Model Arab League and Arabic Language Club, and I'm also an undergraduate assistant for an Arabic 101 class now as well. As an honors student I've worked on some research projects, including receiving a grant to go to New York and interview several UN officials about French peacekeeping activities in Mali. I received guidance for this experience by Dr. Charles Stevens, who is senior lecturer of international studies in the Department of Global and Intercultural Studies.

Al Deir in Petra, Jordan

"Probably my most impactful Miami experience was spending 10 weeks during the summer of 2016 studying abroad in Amman, Jordan. I learned of this opportunity through Mr. Saleh Yousef, a lecturer of Arabic in the Department of German, Russian, Asian & Middle Eastern Languages & Cultures (GRAMELAC) who is originally from Jordan and has family there. Mr. Yousef has facilitated studying abroad in Jordan for a number of Miami students, and Jordan is a popular destination for people studying Arabic, especially the Levantine dialect.

"I've been lucky to develop a strong relationship with Dr. Stevens, Mr. Yousef, and other Miami professors. They all make themselves available to their students, especially compared to other universities. I feel that they clearly demonstrate and share their passion for what they're studying and teaching.

"As a senior, I've applied for the Fulbright in Jordan and a fellowship at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. I'm also applying to two schools in the UK for a master's degree in Middle Eastern studies. Over winter break I plan to apply for jobs, such as think tanks in Washington DC, that would incorporate my knowledge of French, Arabic, the Middle East, and international relations. I'm casting a wide net and can't wait to see where I end up!"

Miami and the Liberal Arts

Ramadan Dinner

"Having both a double major and double minor in the liberal arts has given me a wide perspective of a host of topics and issues. This was particularly advantageous to me during my first year, when I shifted from biology to international studies. Having access to various materials and resources through my liberal arts classes is really beneficial. One interesting example was a class called Nationalism, Democracy and Islam in the Middle East (POL 339), taught by Adeed Dawisha.

"International studies encompasses political science, history, anthropology, philosophy, and much more. It acknowledges the importance of considering all kinds of components when considering policy and conflict. What are the social, economic, political, and religious implications of decision-making? You really need a solid grip on these facets in order to understand the whole picture, and that's one of the strengths provided by the major.

"All of my language courses, particularly French and Arabic, have been important to me. I was even able to audit a year's worth of Hebrew last year, which made me really happy because I wanted to take the opportunity to learn some Hebrew but I didn't really have the time to immerse myself fully. Studying language requires consideration of its cultural, personal, and social aspects. Often you develop a stronger relationship with language professors because language is personal."

Experiences Outside the Classroom

Watch Megan describes her experiences in New York, where she interviewed UN officials on French military operations in Mali, and Amman, Jordan, where she lived for 10 weeks to immerse herself in Arabic language and culture.

A Cultural Experience Video Transcript

Advice to Students

"Seek a deeper relationship with your professors. A lot of times there's a chance to chat with them when you're lingering after class, getting your stuff together. People often ask questions at the end of class that I find interesting, and sometimes being the last one in the classroom and sticking around helps to establish a presence and an interest in the material. I started doing this unintentionally, but it became a great way to make that connection.

"It's also good to go to lectures and events outside class that may be relevant to your studies. I usually take snapshots of event posters around campus to be a great record of the many opportunities available. Being persistent in seeking out those opportunities, getting to know your professors and other students, and simply getting more involved with the material outside the classroom will make a big difference!"

[December 2017]