When they consider what subject to take up at university, only a few students will think immediately of Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew or Arabic Studies. Yet there are many good reasons to do so. The languages themselves may be a little difficult, but they are fascinating, as are the histories, literatures, politics, and cultures of the areas in which they are spoken. In addition, studying any of these subjects gives access to exciting careers opportunities in the media, the foreign office, the legal profession, and of course business and finance. At the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (FAMES), you can study languages such as Chinese, Japanese, Persian, Herbrew, and Arabic. Besides learning the language, you will be introduced to the cultures, societies, literatures, and histories of the areas that produced them. Chinese and Japanese Studies are studied by themselves, although during the third and fourth year of study they can be combined (after securing approval of the Faculty Board). Arabic, Persian, and Hebrew can be combined from the beginning with each other and also with a modern European language.
Students spend the third year of their course abroad, an experience which most enjoy tremendously and often leads to long-time friendships. During the fourth year, most students write a dissertation using primary sources in the language they have mastered. That too most find a uniquely valuable experience, as many dissertations explore topics that have not been studied before.
Faculty website: http://www.ames.cam.ac.uk
Asian and Middle Eastern Studies is a 'small numbers subject'. Fortunately, St Catharine's has normally a substantial group of AMES students. You will have colleagues to talk to! You will find that the College as a whole is supportive of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. You will also discover that a number of Fellows who officially have nothing to do with Asian and Middle Eastern Studies in fact are actively researching aspects of Asia and the Middle East. You will of course be able to seek their guidance as well.
St Catharine's welcomes applicants with all manner of academic backgrounds. Students with A Levels in the sciences, or any other subject, usually do just as well as those who have concentrated on learning languages. What we look for is energy, determination, and commitment. Linguistic skill is, of course, important - but just as important is the ability to write well-structured, thoroughly researched essays, usually evidenced by doing well in an essay-based A-Level. Candidates will usually be interviewed by a second college - where possible, on the same day as the St Catharine's interviews.
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