2007 MAAS Alum Tyler Golson is currently studying in Damascus, Syria, as one of five fellows of the Arabic Overseas Flagship, a two-year program sponsored by the National Security Education Program (NSEP).
Mr. Golson began his fellowship with a year of intensive Arabic language training at the University of Maryland, and he is currently spending his second year of study at the University of Damascus’s Higher Institute for Foreign Languages. His courses utilize readings, television, and guest lecturers, among other academic tools, to educate the fellows in important issues in Arab society while forcing them to engage all aspects of language acquisition—reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The goal, according to Golson, is to develop language skillsapplicable to a wide variety of service-oriented careers, including those in government, NGOs, analysis, research, journalism, and communications.
For Mr. Golson, mastery of the Arabic language is crucial to his future goal of helping to improve U.S.-Arab relations.
“I want to work in the spaces between academia and policy, to bridge gaps between peoples and disciplines,” he says via email. “Two years at CCAS showed me the feasibility of applying theoretical models and analytical techniques—the ‘academic’ aspect of my Master’s degree—to real-life political and social challenges. As a MAAS student, I studied under world-renowned academics like John Voll, Michael Hudson, Judith Tucker, and John Esposito, as well as terrific visiting professors from a wide variety of fields and backgrounds…Coming from my undergraduate bubble at Yale, CCAS was a unique way to bring the Ivory Tower down to earth, to learn how academia and policy are not mutually exclusive, but can in fact compliment each other.”
Mr. Golson has met with many eye-opening educational experiences outside the classroom as well. These include being led through the Golan Hospital of the Syrian ghost city of Quneitra, visiting an archaeological dig in process in the ancient Phoenician port city of Sidon (in modern-day Lebanon), hearing the tragic stories of Iraqis facing deportation in Syria’s Office of Immigration and Passports, and being mistaken for the lascivious Turkish soap opera star Mohanad of the hit series Noor.
With its academic curriculum as well as the real-world experiences it provides, the Arabic Flagship program is in many ways an extension of the journey Mr. Golson began at CCAS. “The pursuit of real-life understanding of the Arab world at a time when there is so much ignorance and bias on both sides is crucial in the interest of bridging gaps and making real changes,” he says.