Interview with Canaan Odeh, Middle East Studies Graduate, Class of 2022

Canaan Odeh in front of the US Capitol

What have you been doing career-wise since graduating?

After graduating, I continued my Arabic studies by participating in an intensive program in Jordan for one month. This experience enhanced my understanding of Jordanian-Palestinian culture and inspired me to teach English in the West Bank, which I did for a few weeks in August. Currently, I am interning for Congressman Mark Pocan in his Washington, D.C. office!

How did UW Madison’s Middle East Studies certificate prepare you for your career?

The certificate helped me dissect the complexities within the Middle East, and emphasized that every issue in the Middle East is unique. That said, this lesson has encouraged me to choose one issue area I am deeply passionate about in the region, which is the Israel/Palestine conflict. I also really appreciated the cultural exposure that I received from my coursework and MES events.

What was your favorite MES class or professor? Why?

“Arabic Literature and Cinema” with Professor Nevine El-Nossery. We critically analyzed Arabic literary works such as Sitt Marie Rose by Etel Adnan. The novel was about the Lebanese Civil War and I used this story as a conversation starter to get to know about my mom’s life as a refugee in Beirut. This made the class special, as it allowed me to discover a new part of my identity through my mom’s lived experience.

Is there any advice you would give to a recent graduate when beginning their career?

Have short-term goals and stay flexible. Your long-term plan doesn’t have to be a set-in-stone “fancy” job. Find one or two topics or issues you care deeply about and engage in opportunities that provide you with a larger understanding of that issue. And feel free to experiment in a community space that allows you to thrive and grow within the issue you care about.