Hundreds of students attended the first day of the Mohammed bin Zayed Majlis for Future Generations, with many more expected on Tuesday.
On Monday, The National spoke to five students about what they hoped to get out of the event and what their plans are upon graduating.
Mariam Alshaloubi, 19
Translation student at UAE University
Ms Alshaloubi is hoping to set herself up for success. Although she is still unsure what job she hopes to pursue upon graduating, she is making sure to build contacts and increase her experience.
This is the second year Ms Alshaloubi has attended the majlis, where she hopes to be inspired by the topics discussed.
"This is such a great experience because you are learning about new things in media, business and international events. There are so many fields represented here," the translation student said.
She said she hoped to build a network of contacts that she can use when applying for internships or jobs.
“If you want to be a great translator you have to know how to speak to people. There are many sessions here through which I can learn how to feel more comfortable when talking to new people, especially in my field of work.”
Ms Alshaloubi plans to earn her master’s degree before she begins working, but has not yet decided on an area or specific focus.
“It may be something related to TV or media. I would love to continue studying translation, but employers want experienced translators.”
She prefers to work in government because she believes there are more opportunities for Emiratis there, but recognises that times have changed for UAE nationals.
She said that since her parents’ days everything had changed and become more open.
Khawla Al Zarooni, 20
Renewable energy engineering student at University of Sharjah
“I’m studying renewable energy because this is a new major in the UAE and in the Middle East.
“My university is the only one teaching this major in the Middle East,” Ms Al Zarooni said.
She has always loved mathematics and physics, and engineering allows her to explore those topics.
“My dream is to change homes in my country,” she said.
Ms Al Zarooni wants to transform the way houses are built in the UAE, making them dependent on solar power.
“We get so much sun in our country and we should use the sun,” she said.
The third-year student hopes to find a job and continue studying for her master’s degree in the UAE.
“I want to work with the government for two years and then I want to open my own business, which will change the way electricity is utilised in homes.
“I want to be an entrepreneur,” she said with a smile. While many Emirati parents encourage their children to work in government for the perceived stability public sector employment can offer, Ms Makhlouf is free to pursue her passion.
“My parents gave me all the freedom to choose whatever I want.
“It’s all about following my heart.”
Khaled AlBlooshi, 20
UAE Youth Ambassador
Mr AlBlooshi can often be seen on TV and heard on the radio.
He is an innovator and designed a customised wheelchair while still at school.
“I participate in different programmes for the youth and media is one of my favourite areas of interest. I love being on the radio or on TV and people want me to present my innovation.”
But Mr AlBlooshi was not always so confident in front of the camera.
"When I tried it a few times, I realised it becomes so easy once you instil self-confidence in yourself. I entered the media major at university and I like it," he said. He hopes to continue to create and innovate while pursuing more media opportunities.
“I would want to be a TV presenter after I graduate and also work on innovations,” he said.
The student plans to complete his higher education at Queen Mary University in London before returning to the UAE to work in the public sector.
“Young Emiratis like myself prefer to work in the government sector for the salary and the benefits that are not there in the private sector,” he said.
He said the evolving job landscape had prompted the establishment of new companies, initiatives and ideas that earlier generations in the country did not have exposure to.
“The job won’t just come to you. You have to search and find the best opportunity. You have to work for it and search for it and get a good score in college.”
He said the majlis, where he delivered a talk last year, was also a place of opportunity.
“So many people contacted me months after the majlis ended. There are so many ministers here and they give us their time just to help us improve ourselves.”
Abdelaziz AlRaeesi, 19
Mr AlRaeesi had intended to study international relations but was convinced to study accounting instead by his father, who said it was a more “sensible subject”.
“He thinks this will give me more opportunities,” Mr AlRaeesi said.
He plans to pursue a master’s degree upon graduating.
“I want to study in the US ... many of my friends have pursued higher studies in Australia and the United States.
“It’s a really good thing to get out of the UAE bubble and experience and get to know other people, religions and cultures.”
Despite seeking education beyond the Emirates, he hopes to return to his country for work.
“I would want to work in the government and not in the private sector. Most Emiratis work in the government sector here.”
He said he would rather be employed in the public sector because it offers higher salaries and better working hours.
“Being here at the majlis really helps so that we can meet people and build relationships.”
Mr AlRaeesi thinks that these days, jobseekers need all the help they can get and good networking can help someone develop their career.
“Earlier, people got jobs based on their experience and not their degrees. Now we need experience as well as degrees. My father had a higher diploma and no bachelor’s, but he could manage with that.”
Sara Makhlouf, 20
International relations student at University of Sharjah
Ms Makhlouf hopes that by studying politics, she can help her country “rise higher”.
“I want to be a politician in the future and would like to work in the diplomatic sector,” she said.
“After I complete my bachelor’s in international relations I am planning to study further and do a master’s degree. I hope to travel to the US on an exchange programme.”
She has chosen the US because she believes it is a hotbed of politics and will be a great learning ground for her.
But she intends to return to the UAE and work in government.
“At the age of 14 I was a member of Sharjah Youth Council and this experience made me think of studying politics,” she said. “In the first year of university, I studied engineering but never felt good about it because all my life I dreamt about working in the diplomatic sector.
“After a year, I changed my major to international relations at the University of Sharjah.”
Attending the majlis will help to build her character, she said.
“It might help me with getting a job as well, but that is not the major goal.
"In general, I feel that the education system needs to be fixed. Like most of the students say, 'the job is way different from what we study'.
“My goal is to get more experience and to give more to the country that built me and made me who I am.”