Elliot Plaut '19, right, with Arabic language instructor Mireille Koukjian.

That moment you realize you can take any course that sounds interesting: when it happened to first-year student Elliot Plaut ’19, he opted for Arabic. “Once I got to college and I realized that I had it all laid out in front of me, and I could study whatever I want, I found that this is something I had a passion for and something that I want to continue working with,” Plaut says.

Now, as a world politics major with a focus on the Middle East, he’s taking his fifth semester of Arabic. Poised to embark on a semester-long, intensive-language program in Amman, Jordan, Plaut isn’t sure he became fascinated by the region because of the language or vice versa. But that’s a moot point. He loves what he’s studying.

about ELLIOT PLAUT '19

Major: World Politics

Hometown: Irvington, N.Y.

High School: Irvington High School

Learning Arabic has been a fascinating challenge. “To start you have to get rid of your previous conception of language. You have to work your way back in,” as he puts it.

Whatever he does post-Hamilton, be it graduate school, government work, or a job with an international organization, Plaut wants to use the language and his knowledge of the Middle East. Hamilton’s open curriculum gave him the room to explore those interests, he says, and its academic climate has supported him as he’s done so.

“Because it’s such a small school and because every major itself is such a subsection of the school, there really does develop this sense of community between the professors and the students. Because there’s no academic competition between people — everyone wants to do their best, but not at the expense of others,” Plaut says.

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