Current Student Spotlights: Nida Zehra, Cultural Studies

 Meet Current MALS Student, Nida Zehra!

Nida is an international student from Karachi, Pakistan, and graduated from Habib University in 2019 with an honors degree in Social Development and Policy, with a minor in English and Comparative Literature. She began the MALS Program in the Fall term of 2022, and is completing her degree with a concentration in Cultural Studies.

To learn more about Nida's experience as a MALS Student and her advice to prospective MALS students, check out her interview below! 


  • Where are you from, and when did you start at MALS?

I'm from Karachi, Pakistan and I started at MALS in the Fall term of 2022.

  • What is your previous academic/professional background?

I graduated from Habib University in Karachi with an honors degree in Social Development and Policy with a minor in English and Comparative Literature. I briefly worked as a sub-editor at Pakistan's first citizen journalism portal before going on to write reviews and articles as a writer and contributor for various magazines and newspapers. In 2021, I joined my alma mater's marketing and communications department as a content developer before arriving at Dartmouth in late 2022.

  • How did you find out about our program?

I learned about MALS on a study abroad program at Oxford University in 2018 when I was still pursuing my undergraduate degree. I met a MALS student there. She introduced and encouraged me to apply to MALS. I looked the program  up online and became so fascinated and enamored with it, and instantly knew this would appeal to my interdisciplinary interests perfectly.

  • Why MALS?

My undergraduate institution also focused on a liberal arts curriculum, and I wanted to find a masters program that allowed me to study an array of disciplines. I was investigating graduate programs in the U.S., and was struck by the course offerings of the MALS Program, as well as the concentrations in Cultural Studies, Creative Writing, Globalization Studies, and General Liberal Studies, all of which sounded enticing to me. I enjoy learning about different cultures, their intersection with gender, literature, colonialism, race, media, and delving deep into the issues within them. What was more exciting was that I could take courses outside my track too, polishing my Creative Writing and research skills simultaneously.

  • What is your concentration, and how is your concentration connected to your future prospects/academic or career goals?

My concentration is in Cultural Studies, and I plan on pursuing a career in culture journalism; more specfically, I want to report on art, society, literature, films, gender in various societies and cultures. In the long run, as I learn the ins and outs of working at a magazine or publication, I wish to someday start a culture magazine of my own in Pakistan. Besides this, the concept of the liberal arts is so fascinating to me, I want to promote it at an undergraduate level in my home country, learning from the MALS program itself and further it as a curriculum truly designed for the 21st century, a need of the hour and that enriches the individual and opens their minds. Pakistani society needs people who are critically aware of themselves, be able to listen and tolerate eye-opening perspectives and can look at the world in unique ways. To be able to initiate social change in a country like Pakistan, in my view, studying the liberal arts is the way to do it.

  • What are your research interests?

I'm interested in culture theory and literature, mostly on the aspect of postcolonialism and its effects in the subcontinent and the various strands to it.

  • How are you involved on campus, or in the graduate student community (name all clubs, organizations, sports, jobs, professional development courses, extracurriculars, etc.)

I currently work as a Graduate Student Assistant in the Middle Eastern Studies Department on tasks related to Marketing, Events and Digital Publishing. Alongside that, I worked on Clamantis - the MALS journal as an Associate Editor. I also worked as a Writing 2-3 Teaching Assistant in the Fall and Winter Terms of 2022; in this role, I taught an undergraduate writing and research course, coaching freshmen on how to develop and improve their critical reading skills. This position gave me my first experience in a teaching role - one of the highlights of my degree so far. (To read about Nida's experience in this role, check out our article, here: )

  • In what ways have you developed since beginning MALS?

Before MALS, I wasn't letting myself take chances to step outside my comfort zone. I wasn't sure about my goals in life. MALS made me realize my own voice as a growing writer, and gave me opportunity to further explore my interests. It let me hone the skills I hadn't previously. Most importantly, MALS made me confront my vulnerabilities and embrace them fully because this is a degree that challenges you to put yourself out there, at your worst and your best, in a truly safe environment. Safety and inclusivity is important. MALS is truly a safe space because it attracts all kinds of people from all sorts of backgrounds. I learned not just about myself and how I see the world but how others do, and what their culture is like. Embracing my vulnerability was the most difficult task for me in MALS and I'm happy to have done it. Alongside this, I've come to critically examine texts better, teach them to a class, and articulate well. MALS has given me a wealth of experiences and knowledge that I'm excited to apply in the real world after I graduate.

  • Have you been published since enrolling in MALS?

I'm excited to have my research paper, "Where do we Fall? A historico-cultural analysis of the Postcolonial Diasporic Female Subject in Daphne Palasi Andreadas's Brown Girls" published in the Spring issue of Clamantis: The MALS Journal. I wrote this as a final paper for Professor Regine Rosenthal's class, "Coloring Gender." This course, which examines gender issues in various geographical locations and the contemporary debate around feminism, has been my favorite course thus far in the program. 

  • What advice would you give to an incoming MALS student or prospective MALS applicant?

I would say, get ready to rediscover yourself in MALS! This degree makes you challenge your own preconceived notions to the fullest degree, and helps you learn about the world in entirely new ways. You become an investigator, asking questions and answering them from within your own experiences. By listening to and interacting with people who are so different from you, you learn to become more tolerant and accepting of others. MALS lets you find your voice and keep honing it even after you graduate!