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Aimee Dawson, Arabic & Middle East Studies (2013)

Stories from our graduates

Aimee is the Associate Digital Editor with The Art Newspaper. Here she tells us what she’s been doing since graduating; reflects on the highlights of her degree at Exeter and the skills and experiences it gave her, which have helped in her career to date; and shares her plans for the future.

‘When I was growing up I always enjoyed art and later studied it for my A levels but I put it to one side when I started my Arabic degree. Then while living in Cairo in 2011, on my year abroad, the Arab Spring broke out and suddenly I was surrounded by art on the streets. That’s when I realised I could bring my degree and my interest in art together.

When I got back to the UK I did a few art-related internships alongside my degree and in the summers. After I graduated I started working freelance as an editorial assistant for Ibraaz, an online publication writing about art from the Middle East. In 2015, I went on to do an MA in contemporary art and art theory of Asia and Africa at SOAS in London. While I was there I carried on working for Ibraaz as well as taking on unpaid writing and editing jobs for Middle Eastern art events in London such as Shubbak and Nour Festival, to get more experience. When I finished my MA, I started as a full-time intern at The Art Newspaper. A year later I became the editorial assistant and I've been working my way up ever since. I love my job because I get to write about the region, interview incredible artists and collectors and travel all over the world.

The biggest highlight of my BA at Exeter was my year abroad, even though the revolution in Egypt meant we had to spend half of it in Cairo and half in Fez (turns out that Fez is surprisingly awesome!). I liked that the Arabic classes at the IAIS were small and there was nowhere to hide—it meant you couldn't be lazy! Teachers like Fatima and Wafa were both supportive and pushed us to reach our full potential. I also enjoyed the more creative modules like Arabic Literature, Islamic Art and Architecture, and Media Representations of Islam, which were helpful later on when studying my MA.

I still get to use my Arabic regularly when I’m travelling for work or reading the Arabic press but one of the most helpful things about having chosen this degree subject is that it made me stand out in job applications—people are always fascinated to know I studied Arabic as it’s an unusual degree and a rare skill. The people who hired me at The Art Newspaper have said that it stuck out to them when looking through applicants. Once you’ve got your foot in the door the most important is being adaptable, enthusiastic and bringing more to a job than simply the job description—I was able to move up from my position as intern by asking to take on more responsibilities, from social media management to leading on Middle East-related projects.

In the future I’d like to get more experience in digital publishing, working on podcasts, videos and digital platforms. I’d be interested in one day working for a UK national publication or possibly something in the Middle East. I also haven’t ruled out doing a PhD!’

We’d love to hear what you have been doing since graduating. If you’d be happy to complete a careers profile for us to share with current students and the IAIS network you can do so online here.

Date: 21 November 2019