Understanding Modern Arabic Literature

My Favorite Course in Arab Crossroads Studies

Name: Jakob Plaschke
Country: Denmark
Year: Class of 2020
Major: Arab crossroads studies
Course: Introduction to Modern Arabic Literature

Introduction to Modern Arabic Literature explores literature and its significance in the Arab world from the late 1800s until now.

Why This Course

First of all, it is a requirement for my major to take the course. Also, I really enjoy literature, especially its connection to or reflection of political movements and tendencies. Combine this with my interest in the region, this course was a perfect fit.

As I'm not a native English speaker, I was initially worried about the workload, thinking that my reading speed would suffer when reading long novels. But it turned out well.

A Typical Day in This Class

We would show up to class having read half a novel or so, with the other half of the reading due a few days later. Then, we would start our careful and often slightly confused discussion and slowly go through what we had read.

A few of my classmates were Arabic speakers and had grown up in the Arab world, so sometimes they helped the discussions by having read the works in Arabic or by having unique perspectives on the readings.

Every class was discussion-based and often, most of us walked in confused and walked out very excited as we felt like we had finally understood it. 

What I Loved About The Class

During class discussions after reading Elias Khoury's Little Mountain,  I did not think that my contributions were not that valuable or unique. But I recalled raising points on Arab nationalism and in the moment, felt like I had finally figured out the class and the way it worked.

That insight was extremely comforting and also made me realized that the course and Professor Maya Kesrouany had changed and improved me.


For picking a major, I think it's good to remember that the world is filled with political science and economics majors — not to say there's anything wrong with that — but don't feel like you have to go down that path to do well.

Jakob Plaschke, Class of 2020

Tips on Navigating What Major or Course to Take

Part of the reason I had come to NYU Abu Dhabi was where it is situated— I knew I would be doing Arab crossroads.

I found it helpful to sit down in the beginning of my first semester and lay out a plan for all my four years of how I could fit in my requirements, and how much time I would have to do other courses on the side. That planning made my life a lot easier.

I had started out expecting to do Arab crossroads and political science. I told my friends Arab crossroads is my interest while political science will get me a job. 

My career-related opportunities at NYUAD so far have been proving me wrong. Some opportunities had to do with my Arab crossroads major while others had nothing to do with my major at all. So I would advise to pick a major because you want to do it, not because you think it will be beneficial to your career.

Why NYU Abu Dhabi

I was interested in the Middle East, so being able to have a quality education while being situated in Abu Dhabi was perfect for me. 

When comparing a few universities that I had been admitted to, NYUAD's small classes and how they would affect my academic development came up top on my list in terms of advantages. I knew that the size of our classes would be a lot more stimulating intellectually than the big lecture hall classes you get at other universities.