Isobel Ovenden

Country: United Kingdom
Subject of study: Arabic and Islamic Studies
Year of graduation: 2019
Type/Level of study: Post graduate

What did you enjoy most about your degree programme?

My programme gave me the opportunity to study in the Middle East, twice as part of the formal programme and also through providing funding to do so in the holidays. This was not only invaluable for my Arabic studies but was also highly rewarding on a personal level. Additionally the range of Islamic Studies modules offered enabled me to discover new areas of interest including Sufism, which I wrote my Masters thesis on.

Some of the students were are profiling have in addition to their degree been awarded a departmental prize or award in recognition of their exceptional achievements. If this applies to you please can you tell us about the award you have received and what this award means to you?

I was awarded the Howard Feurtado prize for the best final year dissertation from the Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies. I was absolutely delighted and honoured to receive this prize as I had worked so hard on my dissertation and it was certainly a challenging process, especially in the week before the deadline. The award meant so much to me as I was passionate about the topic and invested significant emotional energy in it!

Please tell us if you were a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?

I was a member of the Arabic and Middle Eastern Society for which I was Publicity Officer in my third year.

What was the highlight of your time at Exeter?

Whilst it is difficult to pick out one, the highlight was the opportunity to travel to Jordan in the 2nd and 4th years. Not only was it fascinating to discover a new country and culture, to have so many new experiences and to make new friends, it also gave way to so many happy, and hilarious memories with my course mates and we all became so close in our time abroad together. 

What will you miss the most about University?

The aspect I will miss most will be the sense of community in the Institute of Arabic and Islamic studies. It was always great to walk into a building where you would know either a member of staff or student. I will miss the many mornings and afternoons (and at times evenings and nights) spent in the building with friends, free lunches and coffee.

What advice would you give to current and future students? (If you are an international student what would you like to tell future students from back home who might be thinking about applying to study in Exeter?)

 I would say try not to stress and doubt yourself too much and to find a balance between work and doing things you enjoy. In deadline and exams season I would also recommend looking for small things to look forward to and enjoy, even if it is as small as having a group coffee break. I would finally say to not be afraid to ask lecturers for help. I found asking lots of questions invaluable, especially when writing my dissertation.

What are your plans now that you have graduated?

I am currently looking at internships relating to my degree and hope to return to the Middle East next year for work or further language study. Longer term, my aim is to use my Arabic and knowledge of Islam to increase mutual understanding between all parties.


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Andrew Phillips

Previously Pearson. I’ve worked for 34 years in media: McGraw-Hill, Electronic Arts, Dorling Kindersley, Penguin and Pearson.