Paula Pacheco Soto
Middle East studies and international relations
Why did you decide to concentrate in Middle East studies?
I first learned about the Middle East in my high school history class. When I came to Brown, I wanted to pursue that interest further and began taking Arabic classes and introductory courses on the history of the Middle East and North Africa. I've always been interested in understanding the MENA in conversation with other postcolonial regions–especially Latin America. In order to do so, I wanted to take the time to gain an in-depth understanding of the history and contemporary challenges of the region to explore how they connect to current events in other developing regions.
You studied abroad in Tunisia last year. What was that experience like?
I studied abroad in Tunis during the spring semester of my junior year and it was a fantastic experience. I was happy to spend time in North Africa and practice my Arabic and also have the opportunity to do an independent study focusing on sexual orientation and gender minorities. Tunisia has a growing and complex queer community. I was very fortunate to talk to folks and gain insight about the development of this movement after the revolution— an issue which I think deserves more academic and mainstream attention. I was lucky to present the paper that came out of that exchange in an undergraduate workshop at the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) annual conference last year.
What advice would you give underclassmen?
Don't be scared to talk to professors and ask questions! Office hours are a great place to talk to professors you are taking classes with, but also professors who might be working on issues you are interested in and want to learn more about. The faculty in MES is very willing to work with undergraduates and have always taken my ideas and interests seriously. Professor Winder especially has been a great advisor and has pushed me and supported me in pursuing opportunities beyond Brown as they relate to my interests in MES.
What are your postgraduate plans?
I am planning to continue my work on issues of displacement in relation to Latin America and the Middle East through a gender lens. I will be taking some time to work directly with advocacy before pursuing a graduate program focusing on law and gender.