Jun 15, 2024  
Undergraduate Record 2012-2013 
Undergraduate Record 2012-2013 [ARCHIVED RECORD]

Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures

Requirements for the Major in Middle Eastern Studies or South Asian Studies


  • Grade of C or better in each semester of 2010 and  2020, or 2060 in Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, Persian, Sanskrit, or Urdu, or departmental exemption.


  • 30 credits in MESALC and related courses, with the following distribution:
    • two courses (6 credits) at or above the 3000-level in a language relevant to the student’s regional concentration 
    • Major Seminar (MEST 4991 or SAST 4991) – 3 credits
    • 7 courses, each at least 3 credits, in one of two regional concentrations (Middle East or South Asia), that satisfy the following criteria:
      • History: 1 course must have  a History Department mnemonic, typically HIME for students with a Middle Eastern concentration and HISA for students with a South Asian concentration. Exceptions can be worked out in consultation with the student’s major advisor; 
      • Literature: 1 course must be in a relevant regional literature (literature-in-translation courses are allowed);
      • Distribution: 1 course from at least 3 different departments; and
      • Concentration: at least 3 courses must come from the same department.
  • Double majoring is encouraged, but students are reminded that 24 credits in each major must come from courses unique to that major; only 2 courses may be shared;
  • Students are reminded that USEM credits cannot count toward major requirements;
  • A maximum of 12 study abroad and domestic transfer credits are allowed, with the permission of the major advisor;
  • Students in this major must maintain a satisfactory grade point average in major courses each semester. Satisfactory is defined as an average of C (i.e., 2.0). Students not maintaining this grade point average may be discontinued from the major.

Requirements for the Minor in Middle Eastern Studies or South Asian Studies

  • Satisfactory completion (a grade of C or better) of a 1020 (or 1060) level class in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian (Middle Eastern Studies Minor): or in Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit or Urdu (South Asian Studies Minor). 
  • At least 18 credits in one of the two regional concentrations (Middle East or South Asia).  Language courses above the 2000-level may be counted for this. Of these 18 credits:
    • a minimum of 3 courses, each carrying at least 3 credits, must be from regional concentration courses in any one department: Anthropology, Art History, History, MESALC, Politics, Religious Studies, or other relevant department;
    • at least 1 course, carrying at least 3 credits, must come from a content course in MESALC; and
    • no more than 3 courses may be from any one department other than MESALC.
  • Students are reminded that credits applied to a minor may not be applied to any major.

MESALC’s Director of Undergraduate Studies serves as the advisor for all MEST and SAST minors.

Requirements for the Major in Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures or South Asian Languages and Literatures


  • 2020 (or 2060) level of a MESALC language. A grade of C or higher must be earned in each semester of 2010-2020 (or 2060).


  • 30 credits in MESALC and related courses, of which
    • 18 credits (6 courses) must be in one MESALC language (at least 6 credits at or above the 3000-level, the remaining 12 credits above the 2020-level); or, at the discretion of the student’s advisor, 12 credit in one language and at least 6 credits in a second language in the same region; Tibetan may be used as a second language in the South Asian region. Biblical Hebrew may be used as a second language in the Middle East region. At least 6 of the 12 credits for the first language must be at or above the 3000-level; the rest must be above the 2020-level. The 6 credits for the second language may be taken at any level.
    • 12 credits (4 courses) must be in MESALC and related courses, of which
      • 2 courses must be in regional concentration courses from 2 of the following 6 areas: MESALC (non-grammar courses, usually numbered above 3000), Anthropology, Art History,  History, Politics, and Religious Studies; and
      • 2 courses are to be determined in consultation with the student’s advisor. These courses may be further MESALC language study or non-language, regional concentration courses in MESALC or another department.
  • A maximum of 15 study abroad credits and domestic transfer credits are allowed at the discretion of the major advisor.

It is crucial that language training begin early in the student’s career, and we encourage students to consider summer language study and study abroad programs. (See the Study Abroad Programs section below.)

Students in this major must maintain a satisfactory grade point average in major and related courses each semester. Satisfactory is defined as an average of C (2.0). Students not maintaining this grade point average may be discontinued from the major.

Students should check with their advisor concerning the current availability of this major in the language or languages of their interest.

The Distinguished Majors Program

MESALC offers a Distinguished Majors Program that allows qualified majors to pursue in-depth analysis of issues and topics related to the major.

To qualify, students must meet the general requirements of their MESALC major with the following modifications:

  • Distinguished Majors must take 12 credits of concentration courses at the 4000-level or above, including MESA 4998, a six-credit sequence of tutorial work on a senior thesis to be completed over the fall and spring semesters of the fourth year.
  • Students must obtain the agreement of a faculty member to serve as thesis advisor (“first reader”) and a second faculty member (who may come from a different department) to serve as second reader. Students are encouraged to use primary language sources in researching their theses.

Admission into the Distinguished Majors Program occurs in the spring semester of a student’s third year. Applicants must be in either the Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies Major or the Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Literatures Major, with major and general GPAs of at least 3.4. Applications must be submitted by the second Monday after spring break of the student’s third year, and should include the following:

  • A statement of interest that explains the student’s desire to enter the program and his or her general area of research interest;
  • A writing sample, for example, the best paper written by the student for a course;
  • A letter of recommendation from a faculty member in the student’s concentration, either sent directly to the MESALC Chair or sealed and submitted by the student with other materials;
  • A copy of the student’s most recent transcript.

Decisions concerning admission to the DMP are made by early April.

Commencement honors of Distinction, High Distinction and Highest Distinction require a minimum GPA of 3.4, as well as timely completion of the senior thesis. Honors are awarded on the basis of overall academic performance, as well as the recommendation of the first and second readers of the thesis.

Study Abroad Programs

University of Virginia-Yarmouk University Summer Arabic Program MESA-LC administers a summer Arabic program at Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan, which provides an opportunity to study Arabic intensively at the intermediate and advanced levels. The program occasionally receives grants from which it can offer fellowships. Additional information can be found at www.virginia.edu/arabic/yarmuk_program.htm or http://www.studyabroad.virginia.edu/.

In addition to study abroad programs administered by UVa, students are encouraged to develop their language skills at the many other study-abroad programs that are available throughout the Middle East and South Asia. Faculty are happy to advise students concerning appropriate programs, and program descriptions and advice are also available from the International Studies Office in Minor Hall. Students are particularly encouraged to participate in such programs so that they can experience first hand the languages in their surrounding cultures.

At the discretion of the major advisor, a maximum of 12 study abroad and domestic transfer credits is allowed for the Studies Major and a maximum of 15 for the Languages and Literatures Major.


MasterCard Asian Studies Scholarship This scholarship is awarded annually to a rising fourth-year major in Asian Studies. Students pursuing South Asian concentration in MESALC are eligible to apply for this scholarship. To be competitive, scholarship applicants should also apply for the Distinguished Majors Program. This scholarship provides approximately $4000 for tuition, and it carries with it the possibility to apply for a paid summer internship with MasterCard. There is no specific application procedure: we assume that all applicants for the DMP are also applying for the MasterCard Scholarship.

Centers and Programs

Arts and Sciences Center for Instructional Technology (ASCIT) A resource containing many audio-visual materials which are used to help bring the culture surrounding our different languages alive for students. It is conveniently located in Cabell Hall along with most MESALC classrooms and offices. The language laboratory is used to help students practice and reinforce their speaking and listening skills.

Center for South Asian Studies This interdisciplinary center coordinates research and teaching on South Asia, encompassing Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. It sponsors a lecture series, as well as many other activities.

Asia Institute The Asia Institute promotes the interdisciplinary study of Asia by facilitating the research and teaching of U.Va. faculty and the education of hundreds of students. It assists the University’s schools and units in their Asia-related interests and initiatives.

Middle East Studies Program The Middle East Studies Program is an association of faculty who share a regional interest. The Program sponsors a lecture series, along with other activities.

The Jewish Studies Program Jewish Studies is an interdisciplinary program that introduces students to the history, languages, and literatures of the Jewish people; to the beliefs and practices of Judaism; and to the contributions of Jewish scholarship to human civilization.

Additional Information

For more information, contact MESALC Chair, Cabell Hall, P.O. Box 400781, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4781; (434) 924-2304; mesa@virginia.edu; http://www.virginia.edu/mesa.