The Understanding the Middle East: Regional and International Identities, Interests, and Strategies program aims to enable students to achieve a clear understanding of the main issues that have shaped and are characterising the politics of the region, its role in contemporary international politics, as well as the strategies employed by the main international actors towards it. The program also aims to investigate the usefulness and the shortcomings of (‘Western’) international relations and political science approaches and concepts to the region, highlighting both the differences and similarities between the Middle East and other political areas.

The 3 week course will combine lectures, in-class debates, and a role-play activity. You will be asked to choose a political actor from among the suggested ones and:

  •  Study it in depth and provide a position paper on it (deadline: end of the first week);
  •  Briefly present the position paper during classes;
  •  Play the role of that political actor during the course by developing strategies and implementing regional policies according to the rules set by the instructor.

After the first week of the course, you will be encouraged to play the role of your chosen political actor and try to achieve its aims inside and outside of class. At the end of the second week, the resulting fictional regional order will be discussed in class. During the third week, you will be asked to develop new strategies in order to adapt to changes in variables as modified by the instructor, and to prepare for a fictional UN-sponsored conference on Middle Eastern Regional Order, which will take place at the end of the course.

** The program details are subject to change **

Academic Overview

First week – Theoretical and empirical background

  • introduction and overview of the course
  • Is the Middle East really the centre of international politics?
  • The modern Middle East: Creation, boundaries, and ‘fault-lines’
  • International Relations Theory and the Middle East
  • Essential concepts: Power, security, order, nation
  • Historical and analytical elements for an understanding of Islam as a political phenomenon
  • ‘Orientalism’, ‘Westoxication’ and ‘Occidentalism’
  • In class debate: The legacy of history in the contemporary middle east

Second week –  Established features of middle eastern regional order 

  • Autocracies
  • The ‘curse of black gold’, conflict and cooperation
  • Ideologies and Islam

Third week – The contemporary middle east

  • In class debate: A democratic or an Islamist ‘wave’? Discussing Middle Eastern ‘civil revolts’
  • In class debate: The Israeli-Palestinian (Arab) conflict
  • The ‘Syrian spill-over’: A regional or international challenge?
  • the European Union and the ‘Mediterranean’
  • The United States and the Middle East between change and continuity
  • In class debate: Role-play assessment: The (fictional) Middle Eastern regional order
  • New or ‘returning’ international powers
  • The changing Middle Eastern regional order: Iran, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia
  • The changing Middle Eastern regional order: The failing states
  • The changing Middle Eastern regional order: The non-state actors
  • In class role-play: The fictional un-sponsored conference on Middle Eastern regional order
  • ‘Wrapping up’: The political order of the Middle East

University and Faculty


Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (also known as UCSC or UNICATT) is an Italian private research university and was founded in 1921. Cattolica is the largest private university in Europe. Its main campus is located in Milan, with satellite campuses in Brescia, Piacenza, Cremona, Rome and Campobasso.


Alessandro Quarenghi is a lecturer in International Politics at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, where he teaches subjects on International Relations and International Relations of the Middle East. He holds a degree in Law, a PhD in International Relations, a Specialization in International Economics and Politics, and Masters Degrees in Postcolonial Politics and Cross-cultural Mediation. His work focuses on Middle Eastern order, regional security issues, democratization processes, and regional cooperation.



Students will be staying in dorm style accommodation (, and will be sharing a room with at least one other student. The accommodation is roughly 20 minutes away (metro and walking) from the University. All rooms have WiFi and a private bathroom as well as kitchen facilities.

Student Blog

Hear the experiences of other students on this program

“Milan was a beautiful city to be able to study in for 3 weeks. As you can imagine, the food in Italy was incredible! The architecture was also amazing and Italian culture and religion are so different to anything I’ve experienced at home. From exploring churches and viewing the Last Supper painting, Milan was really able to keep us busy! Being the fashion capital of the world, studying in Milan gave us the opportunity to explore the high-end retailers in the city centre. To clarify nothing was purchased- we were simply window shopping! Watching an Inter Milan football game was really a once in a lifetime experience, as were the cocktails we drank on the rooftop overlooking the city.”
- Elysse Anderson, Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws Honours READ MORE



Italy is an extraordinary feast of heart-thumping, soul stirring art, food and landscapes. Being the epicentre of the Roman Empire and birthplace of the Renaissance, this place is filled with culture. You can stand in the presence of Michelangelo’s David, Sistine Chapel frescoes, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and Primavera, and Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Italy has more UNESCO world heritage cultural sites than any other country on Earth.

Home of Italy’s stock exchange, an industrial powerhouse and the internationally accepted arbiter of taste in fashion and design, Milan is a simmering metropolis with a serious sense of history and place. The grand Gothic Cathedral, the Duomo, lies at the geographical heart of this one-time imperial Roman capital, and expresses a love of beauty and power that still drives the city today. The city has a sparkling nightlife and endless opportunities to eat the best of Lombard. You can also see Milan’s most famous mural, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper, one of the world’s most iconic images – hidden away on a wall of the refectory adjoining the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie.

Milan has won the 2015 Eurocities award for Innovations for its project on “Fewer cars, more shared spaces, better quality of life for all”. Read more on sharing-mobility-strategy-in-milan.



Credit and Funding


All our programs are designed to count for credit as electives. However, it is up to your university to decide whether they will approve some credit for your participation in one of our programs. Normally it is a course convenor, Head of Department or program convenor who approves your credit.

Course convenors will not be able approve credit for a course unless you have a copy of the syllabus, so you should not visit your course convenor until you have received a copy of the course syllabus from AIM Overseas. You will receive this in your AIM Overseas acceptance pack, along with information about how to apply for credit at your university.

For more information, see our Credit and Funding pages.


You might be able to obtain the $6000+ OS-HELP loan, as well as a scholarship from your university, when participating in an AIM Overseas program.

Our programs are designed so that eligible Australian students can access the OS-HELP scheme, which can provide funding of over $6,000 for international study experiences.

We give you detailed information about OS-HELP and how to apply for it in your Initial Consultation with us, as well as in your AIM Overseas acceptance pack.

You can also find more information about OS-HELP on our Credit and Funding pages.

Many Australian universities offer scholarships for their students to take part in overseas study programs. We will provide you information on scholarships that we are aware of at your university as part of your application/acceptance for a program. You can also check your university’s international office webpage to see what might be offered.

Application Information

Applications for our January 2019 programs will open on May 14th.

If you wish to know more, or if you have any questions about our programs please contact us via or (02) 9975 7792. You can also refer to our Frequently Asked Questions.

Alternatively, you can register your interest now for a January 2019 or July 2019 program, meaning you’ll receive updates (via email and phone) prior to the application deadline and when applications are open.