CEU Alumna Zeynep Olgun shares her experience at CEMS

May 14, 2024

Zeynep Olgun is a PhD student in History at the University of Cambridge, Newnham College. She graduated from the Department of Medieval Studies at CEU with an Advanced Certificate in Eastern Mediterranean Studies in 2022. Her MA thesis titled " A Sailor's Life for Me: The Middle Byzantine Sailor on Board and at Port" was supervised by Baukje van den Berg and won the EMS best thesis award.

"As a researcher focused on seafaring in the medieval Mediterranean, my time as an MA fellow at the Centre for Eastern Mediterranean Studies presented as an exceptional opportunity. Over the course of two years at CEU, engaging with the CEMS curriculum, seminars, and events provided me with invaluable insights into this unique geographical area. From broad discussions on Grand Debates in Mediterranean History to specialized courses led by experts covering various aspects of the Eastern Mediterranean, the curriculum offered a comprehensive understanding of the region’s history. This exposure enabled me to develop the interdisciplinary methodologies necessary for my research, significantly benefiting both my MA thesis and subsequent projects. Attending seminars led by international and Vienna-based academics not only contextualized the Eastern Mediterranean within a broader chronological framework but also facilitated networking opportunities. These discussions refined different aspects of my thesis and inspired further research endeavours. Moreover, the research and travel grant supported my region-specific language skills, allowing me to attend the International Byzantine Greek Summer School (IBGSS). One particularly memorable event organized by CEMS was the talk titled “Liquid Conflict and Border Wines: A Political Tasting of Terroir and Territory across the Eastern Mediterranean,” accompanied by a wine tasting and Eastern Mediterranean cuisine. This experience served as a reminder to all of us that the region we study is tangible, encompassing its people, tastes, smells, and continually evolving social, political, and cultural dynamics. CEMS and its Advanced Certificate program in Eastern Mediterranean Studies exemplify the importance of region-focused studies in providing scholars with expertise across different periods, aspects, and sources. By offering a longue durée perspective, they contribute significantly to a better understanding of historical processes."