Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (Arabic & Spanish): Ryan Frost, First Year

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Name: Ryan Frost

Subject: AMES (Spanish and Arabic)

Year: 1st (3rd Year Abroad)

A-Levels: Spanish, English Lit, History, Maths.

What does your working week entail?
The timetable of an AMES student is mainly made up of language classes for the ‘ab initio’ part of the course (no-one expects you to speak Arabic/Hebrew etc. when you arrive!), as well as weekly supervisions to build on all of the key skills. Introductory lectures introduce you to the history and culture of Asia. If you decide to take a (post A-level) European language too, this is split more evenly between lectures in literature and linguistics, as well as classes for translation and practical use. The course covers a wide range so we know exactly which modules we’d like to specialise in later years.

How easy was the transition from A-level to the first year of your degree?
The general pace of the classes was a bit of a shock to begin with. There is lots of new vocabulary to learn, as well as wider reading for lectures. The main difference is that now we have to show the initiative as students, rather than waiting to be told what to do. Nevertheless, despite the novelty of lectures, language courses are mainly made up of small classes, which would be more familiar to an A-level student.

How easily can you fit social activities into your working week?
At times, it can feel tough to fit anything in beyond getting work done. But, as an Arts student, timetables are very flexible and allows for a number of extra-curricular activities. If you get into a routine and try to finish work earlier rather than later, there is no limit to the kind of societies you could join. Just this term, I have taken up rowing, acted in a college pantomime, joined the Cambridge Union Society and played pool! As long as things don’t start to get in the way of your academic life, go for it and try something new.

What sort of things did you talk about in your interview?
Before the interview, I had a short written test in my post A-level language, writing about an unseen extract. Then, in the Spanish interview, we discussed a short text that had been given to me a few minutes before. I was asked about the style of the piece and in what period it may have been written. Discussion then turned to the books I mentioned in my personal statement, so make sure you’ve read them! (Also, keep a few titles back, to throw in during the interview and really impress them) As for the Arabic interview, I had a (very) short grammar test (in English). The discussion was more general, touching upon the political situation in the Middle East and the recent news stories about the region (so try and keep up to date on interesting stuff in the subject). The interview can really be shaped to what you want it to be – just mention your interests in the personal statement and ‘know a lot about a little’.

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