Department of European Languages and Cultures

Meet our graduates: Emily Lewis

A graduate in Arabic and French, who won awards for her student volunteering work, Emily is now a journalist in Beirut, Lebanon.

Photo of Emily Lewis
Emily Lewis, Arabic & French MA (Hons), 2018

When we last spoke to Emily Lewis, she had just graduated with a first class MA honours degree in Arabic and French and was preparing to take up a three month media internship in Beirut, Lebanon.

Three years on, Emily is still in Beirut where she is now firmly established as a journalist. Having worked for The Daily Star Lebanon, and as a freelance journalist covering Lebanon for various international outlets, she now writes for Lebanese newspaper, L'Orient Today.

Reflecting on how her degree helped prepare her for the role, she says “studying Arabic and French has helped me hugely in my career so far. Not only do I use Arabic and French every day at work to find sources and interview people, but the research and communication skills I learnt during my degree have also helped me develop as a journalist.”

“You find that many foreign journalists often don't speak the language of the country they report on, so having language skills gives you an edge in many situations, as you don't have to rely on fixers or translators.”

For anyone wanting to start a career in foreign journalism, my advice would be to get out to the country you want to report on as soon as possible. Even if you don't find a job or internship at a news organisation straight away, you will be able to get to know the country, practise your language skills and build the contacts and knowledge that you'll need to be a reporter. A huge part of journalism is just interacting with the community around you to get to the bottom of the news and find unique stories. 

Emily Lewis, Arabic & French MA (Hons), 2018

Background in volunteering

Photo of award winners
Emily (second from right) with other award-winning volunteers at the Students' Association Impact Awards 2018. Image © EUSA.

In her journalism, Emily typically covers stories relating to healthcare, politics, and human rights - particularly minority rights.

Her interests date back to her time at Edinburgh when, together with other students in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES), she volunteered for STTEPS, a tutoring and educational programme for teenage Syrian refugees in Edinburgh, as well as a Peer Learning scheme to support other students of Arabic at the University.

In the year Emily was involved, STTEPS helped support 22 young people to find their feet in Edinburgh. The teenagers came from refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, and some had had no access to education for several years.

Speaking about the project, for which the volunteers won an Outstanding Global Citizenship Impact Award and a Sir William Darling Memorial Prize, Emily says: "STTEPS was fantastic because we benefitted from it as students of Arabic, as it really helped us improve our fluency and language skills, but of course it also really benefitted the young Syrian kids, helping them to integrate into the Scottish school system and gain a lot more confidence in themselves and in their English skills.”

STTEPS will be back for the 2021/22 academic year. If you are studying Arabic with us, and want to be a volunteer tutor, get in touch. Non-Arabic speakers are also welcome.

Contact SSTEPS about volunteering

Are you interested in studying Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies?

Located at the crossroads between Europe, Africa and Asia, the Middle East plays a pivotal role on the world stage. Offering multiple degree combinations in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES), Edinburgh is the only University in Scotland to offer courses in the Muslim world’s three main languages, placing Arabic, Persian and Turkish in the context of history, literature, culture, religion and politics, past and present.

Find out more about undergraduate study in IMES

Related links

Syrian Teenagers Tutoring and Education Programme (STTEPS)

Read some of Emily's articles on her website