'A dream school destination': Two UAE students win Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford

Sara Alnajjar and Monika Mitova will undertake master's degrees in September next year

Two New York University Abu Dhabi students, Monika Mitova (left) and Sara Alnajjar (right) have been selected as the 2023 Rhodes Scholars. Photo: Rhodes Trust
Powered by automated translation

Two UAE students headed for Oxford University have already made plans to shape public policy and report on Middle Eastern conflicts once they complete their research studies.

Emirati Sara Alnajjar and Monika Mitova, from Bulgaria, seniors at NYU Abu Dhabi, were awarded the Rhodes scholarship to pursue their master's degrees at Oxford University.

Ms Alnajjar, 21, from Dubai, will undertake her degree in global governance and diplomacy in September next year, followed by another master's degree in criminology and criminal justice.

“Representing the UAE as a Rhodes scholar at the University of Oxford is a distinctive and honourable opportunity,” she told The National.

“It will allow me to connect with global future leaders committed to public service and receive a top-tier education.”

Ms Alnajjar, who is completing her bachelor's degree in legal studies, social research and public policy, said her goal at Oxford is to “bring pride to my family, friends, the NYU Abu Dhabi community and, most importantly, the UAE”.

She aims to work as a diplomat and represent the UAE at a global level when she completes her studies at Oxford.

“My main goal would be to incorporate the UAE's commitment to combating human trafficking in the global sphere,” she said.

Ms Mitova, 22, who is completing her degree in political science, is aiming to become a journalist reporting on war and conflict in the Middle East.

“Oxford has been a dream school destination and it was my first and top choice,” she said, adding that she hopes to increase her knowledge of the Middle East and North Africa region while continuing to learn Arabic.

At Oxford, she will be undertaking a master's degree in modern Middle Eastern studies.

“I've always known that Middle Eastern politics is my passion and the programme at Oxford is one of the best in the world.

“While at Oxford, I aspire to collaborate with scholars whose work has played a formative role in my academic journey while continuing to learn Arabic.”

The two winners were chosen by a committee led by Omar Saif Ghobash, Assistant Minister for Cultural Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“A nation's bright future is determined by the progress its people achieve collectively,” he said.

“The UAE is a firm believer in the transformative power of education, and opportunities such as the Rhodes scholarship enable deserving students to become future leaders and drivers of the UAE's success.”

Established in 1902 by the British politician Cecil Rhodes, the Rhodes Scholarship is one of the world's oldest awards for international fellowship and academic study.

Applicants are selected through an intensive process including a written application and in-person interviews.

Each year, about 100 scholars are selected from more than 60 countries around the world, with NYUAD having produced 16 Rhodes scholars in the last decade.

Updated: November 21, 2023, 3:00 AM