Rabith Shaikh

I conducted an independent research this summer. I tried to answer the divisions in Lebanese society. To further understand Lebanon, I went over the writings of acclaimed scholars on Lebanon. My adviser suggested Samir Khalaf, Ussama Makdisi, Itamar Rabinovitch, Asher Kauffman. I read all their works focused on Lebanon. It was an exciting experience but sometimes it was a lot of work. I always had papers with me to take notes but most of the time I just noted important facts and opinions on Notes on iphone. I thought it was easier. I shared findings with my adviser mostly through email but sometimes in person and skype. I found it intellectually fulfilling to share thoughts with a scholar and listen to his views and ideas. I will continue my research, this time on Middle East and North Africa. Lebanon is in Middle East and Modern North African history has been shaped by Ottoman Empire. So, I think there will be some similarities in the societies in North Africa and other parts of the Middles with societies in Lebanon under Ottoman Empire.

I started an independent research myself, on the area of my choosing. It is very important to me as I aspire to be a historian. I became familiar with the writings of scholars on Middle East and North Africa, an area I plan to conduct graduate studies on in the future. I made a difference on the personal level, I came to understand the divisions in Lebanon along sectarian lines were results of Imperial and colonial policies put forward the Ottomans and other foreign powers. And once I become a full-fledged historian, through my writings, I can disseminate this idea and preach for a world where people themselves are important than sects.

In class, professors arrange the course work, they suggest what books we should read and in most cases, select a topic we should write on at the end of the course. Research experience undertaken at my own initiative helped me in undertaking research in a field that I found interest through my interaction with different ideas during the classes I took. I chose the material I thought would be best for my research through consultation with my adviser. I learned the methodology to choose my field of research and to conduct my research though this research experience. And, in class professors choose these for students. So, certainly this research experience complemented in class learning and added value to my goal of being a historian in the long run.

I intend to pursue PhD on contemporary middle east once I graduate from college. Lebanon being a part of the Middle East, the extensive study and research I conducted on nationalisms in Lebanon, peoples in Lebanon and Lebanese history in general, will give me an upper hand when I go onto select my research interest in graduate school. The work that I am doing on Lebanon and plan to do on Lebanon in the coming months will add to my experience as a research historian and up my chances of getting accepted to a leading history PhD program.

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