Seven months of my experience in the Middle East were spent living in the old city of Damascus while pursuing my studies at the University of Syria's capital.
I successfully finished the upper intermediate level of modern standard Arabic at the University's Higher Language Institute. Much of my time was devoted to deepening my knowledge of the colloquial dialect, spoken in the countries of the Levant.
Although my studies were fruitful and enriching, I have to admit that my time in Syria was among the most challenging of my life. Shortly before the beginning of the uprising of the Syrian people cracks in the regime still remained invisible to the external observer and the regime held a tight grip on its people. It is the psychological effects of this subtle grip of constant monitoring, the inability to voice opinions and the daily hustle of bribery and corruption which had its effects even on the state of mind of Syria's otherwise safely sheltered foreign visitors like me.
Personally experiencing a sudden curtailment of basic freedoms lead to the overwhelming acknowledgement of the power of collective emotion and its influence on economical success and society. Some of my personal experiences are represented in my bachelor thesis on The Role of Emotions in Identity Formation.
The observation of a great need for political, infrastructural and social development, which are at the root of the uprising of Syria's people, is easily made. The intrinsic constraints of decade-long nepotism and mismanagement, giving room for corruption, social segregation in addition to demographic and cultural complexity, paired with a rapid urbanization process seemingly left few options for actual reform against these odds.
I have personally learned and grown, academically and foremost personally and remain dedicated to the great people who taught me valuable lessons from a life so unimaginable to me.
Higher Language Institute
University of Damascus, Syria