Please tell us a bit about yourself, your background etc?
I am an Egyptian and currently serve as the Head of Civil Society Programs at the Belgium-based Experts in Elections Democracy and Governance Foundation (EDGE Foundation). Prior to that, I worked as Democracy and Governance Consultant with a number of international organisations with a focus on Libya, Morocco, and Egypt.
I have a bachelor degree in English from University of Ain Shams and a diploma of International negotiations from the Cairo University, Egypt. This year, I received Chevening Scholarship from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to study my MA at University of Leeds.
What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?
In order to choose an MA program, I conducted an extensive research on the various programs provided by the different universities in UK. The MA in Security, Terrorism and Insurgency at University of Leeds fulfilled all my search criteria. It was recommended by UNODC website. It directly responded to the areas of research interest to me. The assessment is essay-based, which was a very attractive selling point. POLIS Administration responded promptly to all my queries. And above all, the professors are experts in their areas of specialisation. And of course Leeds is a nice city to live in.
What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?
As someone who works in post-conflict countries and countries in transition particularly in the Middle East, terrorism, insurgency and radical groups are often present in some form or another. I wanted to understand these phenomena so that in the future I am able to design and implement resilient programs that take into account these factors and help prevent or reduce them.
What aspects of the course have you enjoyed the most?
I definitely enjoyed the terrorism, counterterrorism and policing of post-conflict cities modules. The fact that the program is research-based expanded my knowledge at all accounts. There is also a strong focus on quality academic writing, which significantly improved my skills. Most of the modules are instructed in a seminar format. I was always looking forward to the classes to listen to the different opinions in the rooms.
What would you say about the learning facilities in the School and at the University in general?
The learning facilities at University of Leeds made my life easier as a student. The Library is quite comprehensive. I have also used the language learning software that the University offers for free; Rosetta Stone to learn German. The 24/7 IT clusters are a life-saving bliss during the essay submission period, especially when ISP switchboards are flooded due to heavy rains.
What would you say about Leeds as a city?
Leeds is a nice small big city. It has a bit of everything. It is not as expensive as London. It is not cheap either. Leeds offers something for everyone. Quality of life is guaranteed. Means of transportation are abundantly available. However, given the dedicated cycling lanes, hiring a bike could be a good idea. The city is also walkable and not congested even on a Monday morning. Night life is very popular, however, 90% of your time will be spent at the Library reading, researching and writing. Sorry to crush your dreams!
What do you like to do outside of studying?
I like cycling and hiking. I also enjoy cooking and baking.
What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?
You should read the course structure and content on POLIS website to make sure it meets your expectations. The good news is the program’s page is very comprehensive and offers specific details about what you should expect from the different modules.
What do you plan to do once you’ve finished your course?
I am planning to pursue a PhD in counterterrorism and work on some pieces to get published in the meanwhile.