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    Hi,

    To give you guys a bit of background, I've just finished my second year of physics at Bristol. Having realised I'm not about to become the next Einstein or Steven Hawking (bless his soul, I'm not sure I want to be him right now anyway), I've decided I might've set upon the wrong course (no pun) for my life. I've harboured a deep interest in the middle east for the last four or five years and have both an interest and facility in learning languages. What it all boils down to is that my ability to talk to people is better than that I have for counting up to large numbers.

    Anyway, to cut a long story short, I applied to do Arabic and Persian at SOAS, starting this September, and yesterday got an unconditional offer. This places me in a bit of a dilemma with all sorts of things, not lease of which finances. The real question however, is what I should do next. I could either stick with the physics for one year, or two, and graduate, or else consider the physics a 'sunk cost' and embark on a new adventure in Arabic and Persian.

    To help me make up my mind, I think I need some informed opinions, so without further ado:

    1.) What's the teaching like at SOAS? Lots of contact time? Good lecturers? Tell me all you can.

    2.) Do you study one of the above languages? What do you have to say about it? Are you enjoying it? What sort of language aptitude do you have and what background in language learning did you have prior to starting your course?

    3.) How much work do you do? I guess here I'm looking for assurances that this is a serious degree, and that I'll be kept with my nose to the grindstone.

    4.) What's SOAS like, in a less tangible sense? The people, the learning environment, the general ethos... anything you think might help me make my decision.

    Hokay, I think that's everything.

    - Thanks in advance for your time,

    - Dominic
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    I did some Persian alongside my degree, and I felt it was taught very well - right from scratch. I've also attended some of the Arabic classes, and know quite a few friends who did it. The Arabic will be more intense, since the language is tougher to learn. The quality of teaching is pretty top notch, with the leading Arabists at SOAS, and the Persian side of things is also very well taught. Rest assured its a serious degree - and you'll have a year either in Cairo/Alexandria or Damascus. Persian doesn't have a year abroad for obvious political reasons, which is a shame I feel. Language contact time is perhaps the most at SOAS (the rest of us get away with 6-8 hours, whereas you guys will be looking at 14-15 hours) and be prepared for 9am starts on more than one morning.

    SOAS is nice but very different to other universities - its very political, lots of meaningless debates at union meetings, socialist worker events all the time, protests on the front steps about something or another, accusation of antisemitism, the works. But the teaching quality is awesome, so if you can look past that, you're in for a good time. You'll also meet people from all over the world, and everyone will have a fascinating story to tell about themselves.

    I've been here for four years now, so throw me any specific questions and I'll try to help you out.
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    why dont you finish your physics degree and then learn Arabic and Persian? its only one more year, and if you drop- out you would have wasted two years. SOAS is a very exciting place, most of the students are very hardworking and instead of most people i have met from other universities; soas students are studying for their degree because they have a profound interest in their subject.
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    (Original post by Socrates)
    I've been here for four years now, so throw me any specific questions and I'll try to help you out.
    Thanks a mil. I looked through all 24 pages of this subforum (as in read all the threads) and found almost nothing on Persian, and little on Arabic save your encouragements and jonnyboyyork's drivel about how bad it is. It all sounds really nice in the prospectus, but I've been trying to dig up every scrap of information I can find, as this is one helluva big decision for me.

    I guess I have another question: have you come across many, or indeed any, students who're staying at home with their parents? I just reckon it'd be a lot easier for me to stay at home and commute in. Heck, it'd be like working, but with some deeper motivation that just money .

    - Thanks again,

    - D

    PS: What sort of aptitude do you feel one needs to become wholly fluent in a 'difficult' language like Arabic? It's just that I pretty much sailed through French (got 82% for my science-specific French module this year) and have always been quite good at interpreting obscure grammatical constructions and the like, but French is a pretty easy language. I don't want to find myself doing something I'm simply too dumb to crack. Any thoughts?
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    (Original post by Delirium_Phenomena)
    why dont you finish your physics degree and then learn Arabic and Persian? its only one more year, and if you drop- out you would have wasted two years. SOAS is a very exciting place, most of the students are very hardworking and instead of most people i have met from other universities; soas students are studying for their degree because they have a profound interest in their subject.
    My thoughts hinge upon this principle. The real question is which would stand me in better stead in the long run: to finish off the physics quickly and risk not doing something I'm good at, or to cut my losses now and do invest four years of my time in something else? Bear in mind that I can always finish the physics degree at a later date (I'll have the credit) and perhaps somewhere that's better at teaching it.

    Faced with such a decision, what would your advice be?

    - D
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    If you are sure physics is not your thing (and by now I think you are - two years of physics is not something you easily forget...) I'd suggest just taking up your offer at SOAS. I mean, what's the point of spending another year doing something you dislike or are not fond of, to get a degree in something you don't necessarily want to do. Qui plus est, you said so yourself, if at worst you regret your decision of changing degrees, you can always go back - you'll have credit. It'd have been a waste of time, sure, but i'd gladly take that instead of the possible (and extremely likely) "Oh what if..." you'll think of in a couple years time.

    I myself am off to do BA Chinese at SOAS. I don't know much about the Arabic or Persian courses there, I just do know that those languages are extremely hard, but not impossible. It'll definitely not be the same as French, but if you are the odd person to think French is easy (even french speaking people find French hard, with all the nasal pronounciations, as well as the different conjugations, and the subjonctif you never know when to use (apres que? Avant que?)) then I believe you wont struggle too much with those languages. Oh, and we could also add that the combination with French could hold many opportunities!

    Btw, you stress the fact that it would be something you're "not good at" (if you continue physics that is), I understand it to be something you dislike, but if it's not, and if you're happy doing it, I think you're better just continuing that degree. I mean, better to be happy doing something you're mediocre at, than doing something you dislike and being fantastic at it (although French teachers generally push for the latter - I disagree.)

    Anyway, best of luck!
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    1.) What's the teaching like at SOAS? Lots of contact time? Good lecturers? Tell me all you can.
    For Arabic you will have alot of contact hours I think. Compared to normal SOAS degrees anyway. Persian learning will begin in your 2nd year and you will have 8 hours of that a week and it will be worth 2 modules. The teachers for Persian are amazing. Mrs Dundon is great and Narguess is just like the most amazing academic ever. The year after you get Narguess and Shabnam and she seems really cool too. And everyone seems to like Nima Mina.

    2.) Do you study one of the above languages? What do you have to say about it? Are you enjoying it? What sort of language aptitude do you have and what background in language learning did you have prior to starting your course?
    I study Persian. Its pretty cool, the teachers we had really did try hard, and we had a small class which was great. The arabic students in my class found it easier and did exceptionally well. One I spoke to got a 80+% in her Persian. The last time I learnt languages was GCSE some 3 years ago before I started Persian. I really do enjoy Persian and am looking forward to learning the poetry and literature next year. And can't wait to go to Iran one holiday and practice there (whenever I think about it I just think its so cool).

    3.) How much work do you do? I guess here I'm looking for assurances that this is a serious degree, and that I'll be kept with my nose to the grindstone.
    If you want to speak persian well you have to do alot of work. Arabic you have to alot of work if you just want to pass. Missing lessons is really just not an option with language degrees. Altho i didnt do that much work this year for Persian, I think after a year of being conditioned by the evil Arabic department, you will just automatically work hard at it.

    4.) What's SOAS like, in a less tangible sense? The people, the learning environment, the general ethos... anything you think might help me make my decision.
    I really like SOAS, and don't really want to leave; ever. I like the big mix of people and the fact there are so much options for what you can do. Drinks will be alarmingly expensive for you having come from Bristol tho. Well then again it depends where you drink. SOAS hasnt got the best work ethic, until like Easter when the library is suddenly full and everyone is working increadibly hard (atleast in my year), but I think the year below studied quite hard throughout the year. Sometimes the library was even busy in winter term. But generally everyone is very friendly and helpful. You meet alot of people, and it takes on average 30minutes to walk the 300ms from the library to the common room, because you have to stop and talk to every 6th person you see. Which is great but frustrating lol.
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    (Original post by Dempy)
    1.) What's the teaching like at SOAS? Lots of contact time? Good lecturers? Tell me all you can.
    For Arabic you will have alot of contact hours I think. Compared to normal SOAS degrees anyway. Persian learning will begin in your 2nd year and you will have 8 hours of that a week and it will be worth 2 modules. The teachers for Persian are amazing. Mrs Dundon is great and Narguess is just like the most amazing academic ever. The year after you get Narguess and Shabnam and she seems really cool too. And everyone seems to like Nima Mina.

    2.) Do you study one of the above languages? What do you have to say about it? Are you enjoying it? What sort of language aptitude do you have and what background in language learning did you have prior to starting your course?
    I study Persian. Its pretty cool, the teachers we had really did try hard, and we had a small class which was great. The arabic students in my class found it easier and did exceptionally well. One I spoke to got a 80+% in her Persian. The last time I learnt languages was GCSE some 3 years ago before I started Persian. I really do enjoy Persian and am looking forward to learning the poetry and literature next year. And can't wait to go to Iran one holiday and practice there (whenever I think about it I just think its so cool).

    3.) How much work do you do? I guess here I'm looking for assurances that this is a serious degree, and that I'll be kept with my nose to the grindstone.
    If you want to speak persian well you have to do alot of work. Arabic you have to alot of work if you just want to pass. Missing lessons is really just not an option with language degrees. Altho i didnt do that much work this year for Persian, I think after a year of being conditioned by the evil Arabic department, you will just automatically work hard at it.

    4.) What's SOAS like, in a less tangible sense? The people, the learning environment, the general ethos... anything you think might help me make my decision.
    I really like SOAS, and don't really want to leave; ever. I like the big mix of people and the fact there are so much options for what you can do. Drinks will be alarmingly expensive for you having come from Bristol tho. Well then again it depends where you drink. SOAS hasnt got the best work ethic, until like Easter when the library is suddenly full and everyone is working increadibly hard (atleast in my year), but I think the year below studied quite hard throughout the year. Sometimes the library was even busy in winter term. But generally everyone is very friendly and helpful. You meet alot of people, and it takes on average 30minutes to walk the 300ms from the library to the common room, because you have to stop and talk to every 6th person you see. Which is great but frustrating lol.
    Whoah! Thanks a mil for all of that. Sounds like just the place I want to be. That said, it still remains for me to actually make a decision, and was wondering if you had any input on that too. Which do you consider to be the more noble endeavour: study of languages or study of the sciences? I ultimately wish to learn Arabic and Persian however my life pans out, so do you think it's best to get it out of the way now, or to pursue the challenge of physics? Do you think (realistically) that I'll ever acquire the same language skills if I pursue the physics as I would with the intensive instruction SOAS seems to offer? What would you recommend? I guess I'm just clutching at straws here and looking for any advice that might tip the balance in favour of either option, as I'm helluva confused right now, and it's not proving a good place for me to be :p:!
 
 
 
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