Abu Dhabi student beats odds to secure Oxford scholarship

Chiran Pandey, from Nepal, will receive Dh180,000 in funding towards his master's degree

Chiran Raj Pandey
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An Abu Dhabi university student has been awarded a prestigious scholarship to the University of Oxford.

Chiran Pandey, from Nepal, was among one per cent of applicants who will receive a full grant, worth Dh180,000, under the Ertegun Scholarship.

More than 1,500 hopefuls applied for the programme but places were given to just 15 students from around the globe.

Oxford's selection committee only picks the "very best students" who will become "leaders in their chosen fields".

Mr Pandey - who is on a fully funded four-year scholarship to NYUAD - will travel to the UK in late September to pursue his one year master’s degree in World Literatures in English.

"I applied for the scholarship late last year and had a video interview with the selection committee on February 20, the same day as my birthday," the fourth year undergraduate at New York University Abu Dhabi, told The National.

I was actually with a friend when I found out [the scholarship] but I didn't say anything, I just left the room and called my parents back in Nepal

“On March 6, the university sent an informal email saying I had won the scholarship and that was followed by an official email from the board confirming the news.

“It was an extraordinary feeling. I was actually with a friend when I found out but I didn’t say anything, I just left the room and called my parents back in Nepal.

“I wanted them to be the first to hear the news.”

Mr Pandey, 22, is the first recipient of the “highly competitive” funding in NYU Abu Dhabi's 10-year history.

The scholarship was named after Mica Ertegun, a well-known humanitarian who has received countless awards for her services to philanthropy, education, and British-American cultural relations.

Currently majoring in Literature and Creative Writing, Mr Pandey is due to graduate this summer.

He said he was looking forward to spending a year at such a “prestigious institution”. His plan is to relocate to the UK in late September for an October 10 start date.

“In Nepal, you always hear people talking about two universities, Harvard and Oxford,” he said.

Chiran, far right, with fellow classmates from NYU Abu Dhabi. Courtesy: Chiran Pandey

“They are held in such high esteem so to be attending one of them is an honour.

“I want to be a scholar so one thing I’m hoping the master’s will help me do is clarify what my real goals and interests are.

“Hopefully I can find out where my efforts and skills will be most relevant and rewarding.”

With an interest in philosophy of history and race and gender studies, Mr Pandey said he wanted to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in the UK or the US in the future, too.

He grew up in Kathmandu and attended high school there before moving to the UAE four and a half years ago.

As with all school pupils and university students in the UAE, he recently began an online learning programme as campuses across the country closed to contain the spread of Covid-19.

"It is a little bit sad that this is how my senior year has ended but I've had a wonderful four years here," he said.

"Knowing that I am going to study at Oxford on a scholarship has helped get me through what has been a bitter-sweet ending."