Luca, a YCMES veteran, is currently putting the finishing touches on his anthropological research in Sana'a. Once again, he takes some time out to reflect on his experiences studying in Yemen so far...
My name is Luca Nevola, and I'm a PhD student from the University of Milano - Bicocca. I have been coming to study Arabic in Yemen since 2006. I had always been surprised by the kindness and hospitality of the Yemeni people, and it was partly because of this that in 2009 I decided to undertake my first cultural anthopology fieldwork with a tribe called Beni Matar in the north of the country. I lived for 5 months in a small village, al-Qalis, where I was welcomed enthusiastically and treated as an honoured guest. While my Arabic was a bit rough to start with, the villagers helped me out with the local dialect and very soon I became fully acquainted with my new home.
In 2011, when the Arab Spring erupted across the Middle East, I was a student at YCMES undertaking the first part of my PhD research in Sana'a. While the situation generally was tense and dramatic, I never felt in danger. I took adequate precautions, living in the College and avoiding sensitive places, and found the people to be as kind and helpful as ever.
Since the elections in 2012, the situation has improved drastically. I'm currently undertaking the final part of my fieldwork in a village not far from the capital. I've been travelling quite freely to and from my village at all hours of the day, and have yet to experience any threat to my safety. The terrifying reports that depict Yemen as the last al-Qaeda stronghold, as a country where every step has to be made with care, bear no relation to my experience here, and studying in Yemen is something that I would recommend to anyone.