Dubai Abulhoul grew up in Dubai and is currently a Political Science major at NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus. As part of her senior capstone she has been researching the effect of gender roles and culture on political participation in her home country, and she is a member of the Emirates Youth Council, a government initiative aiming to ensure youth participation in United Arab Emirates politics. Abulhoul is also the author of a best-selling Emirati fantasy novel, “Galagolia: The Hidden Divination.”
On top of all this, she is also a Rhodes Scholar recipient, one of the world’s most prestigious and competitive scholarships. WSN spoke with Abulhoul about what she learned through the Rhodes Scholarship application and what she plans to do during her time at Oxford University.
WSN: Why did you choose NYU?
DA: I was in 10th grade when I first heard that NYU opened one of its campuses in Abu Dhabi. I was immediately drawn to the global university structure that the NYU Abu Dhabi campus provided for its students, which led me to apply in my senior year.
WSN: How did you hear of the Rhodes Scholarship and why did you decide to apply for it?
DA: I heard about the Rhodes Scholarship when it was first introduced as the Falcon Scholarship in the UAE around two years ago. I was keen on applying during my senior year, even though I knew that it would be a very competitive process. I am glad I applied regardless of how challenging the process seemed at first, and I focused more on the process as opposed to worrying about whether or not I would get it.
WSN: What was the hardest part about applying for the scholarship?
DA: I would say the hardest part was working on the personal statement. [But] the writing process allowed me to seriously reflect on what I have done, what I am doing and what I plan to do after my time at NYU. It was a hard process, but also the best part of the application as well.
WSN: What was the most interesting thing you learned during the process?
DA: I think the most important thing I have learned is the importance of truly being yourself. I spent the week prior to the interview thinking too much about what is expected of me to say, as opposed to what I actually had to say. When I entered the interview, I decided to, for the next twenty minutes, completely forget about what I had prepared and to focus only on providing answers that are true to who I am and what I believe in.
WSN: What do you hope to do during your time at Oxford?
DA: I hope to pursue an MSC in Global Governance and Diplomacy and to use my time there to learn from and get to know all the Rhodes Scholars who I will have the privilege to study alongside of during my time at Oxford.
WSN: What are your plans after Oxford?
DA: I want to bring back the knowledge I get from my time at Oxford to the UAE and to join the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to serve my country abroad.
WSN: What is your advice for prospective Rhodes Scholarship applicants?
DA: Be yourself, and enjoy the process! Working on the application is an amazing self-reflective opportunity, and learning to enjoy the process, regardless of the outcome, is something I am grateful I realized early on.
WSN: What is one of the most interesting things you’ve learned while researching the effect of gender roles and culture on
DA: I am still in the early stages of my capstone research on the effect of gender roles and culture on political participation, but what I am quickly realizing is how subjective that effect is, which in return makes the connection a very challenging thing to quantify.
WSN: What was the most difficult thing about writing your book “Galagolia: The Hidden Divination” at such a young age?
DA: I think the most difficult thing was getting to convince publishers to take my manuscript seriously despite my young age at the time. Looking back, what kept me going, despite the challenges my young age presented, was how passionate I was about writing, and that led me to focus more on the writing process itself instead of the final published outcome.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Dec. 5 print edition. Email Maria Ann Puertas at [email protected]