My UAE: Studying smart with Rhodes Scholar Hamel Al Qubaisi

The 22-year-old Emirati from Abu Dhabi has spent the past few years studying in Abu Dhabi, Washington and London.

Hamel Al Qubaisi, who has won a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford. Christopher Pike / The National
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Hamel Al Qubaisi is gaining as much knowledge about the world as he is about political science, his chosen area of study.

The 22-year-old Emirati from Abu Dhabi has spent the past few years studying in Abu ­Dhabi, Washington and London. He graduated from NYU Abu ­Dhabi last year, one of two students from his class to be named a Rhodes Scholar – a postgraduate award for outstanding international students to study at Oxford.

“This global outlook and exposure granted me the opportunity to immerse myself in other cultures, build friendships across different regions, and form a more refined and cosmopolitan identity for myself,” he says. “This immersion, coupled with a wide-ranging exposure to NYU sites around the world, has shaped my vision. I no longer see the world from a local perspective. I see it from a global ­standpoint.”

Al Qubaisi initially studied economics at NYU: “I never intended to study political science. I entered NYU Abu Dhabi with hopes of ­majoring in economics and ­working on one of those sovereign wealth funds scattered around the city,” he says. “Unfortunately, I consistently failed my classes in freshman year. It was then that I realised I was terrible at economics, and chose to move to the political science department – it was the best decision I made.”

He says the classes were more stimulating: “It helped me grow intellectually and acquire skills that benefit me to this day.”

Al Qubaisi wrote his thesis on the effectiveness of foreign aid, and is continuing to expand on this area of study at Oxford. “Foreign aid can be used as a tool to help countries around the world that are struggling, just like we [as a country] struggled before the discovery of oil,” he says.

Al Qubaisi has this advice for those hoping to emulate his path: “Do not look at me – aim higher. What I have done is easy, and I intend to go beyond that.”

What sort of car do you drive, and what does it say about you?

I drive whatever is in the house, whether it’s the [Toyota] Hilux pick-up or the Mercedes. That says that I’m a very smart person.

Describe yourself in four words?

Efficient, cheerful, honest and listener.

What's your favourite travel destination?

Portofino [in Italy], because their seafood is the best and their piazza is the most beautiful in the world. It is one of the most peaceful places that I have ever visited.

What attraction would you suggest travellers visit in the UAE?

NYU Abu Dhabi. That partnership, in my opinion, signifies the most important and serious effort by the country to develop its human resources for the future sustainability of the nation.

What have learnt about yourself since living and studying abroad?

I love home so much.

What music do you have on repeat at the moment?

The Emirati singer Mehad Hamad, every single day. He is a legend.

Tell us something not many people know about you?

People mistakenly think I’m a hard worker. I am probably one of the laziest people. I make the most out of any situation with the least amount of effort needed.

What do you enjoy doing in your downtime?

Nothing that involves a lot of physical effort. I try to find a chair, wherever that may be, to sit in and think and have a cup of Silver Needle [a type of white tea].

What's your favourite food?

Machboos hammour. Try it and you’ll know why.

What's your most-prized possession?

My vision. Without it I am nothing.