An Abu Dhabi student who won a prestigious international scholarship will go on to research potential solutions for the drug epidemic in the United States.
Hannah Taylor was one of two NYUAD students to be awarded the Fulbright Scholarship ahead of her graduation this month.
She will be moving to Lisbon later this year to study the social, cultural and political factors that contributed to the success of Portugal's 2001 drug policy shift. Seventeen years ago, the country decriminalised low-level possession of all drugs making Portugal’s drug-related deaths the second-lowest in the European Union.
“The drug policy came at a time when Portugal was suffering from high overdose death rates, crime rates and HIV cases,” said Ms Taylor, who is from Plymouth, Massachusetts.
“The United States is currently facing something very similar. I hope to understand if any of these lessons could benefit my home country for me to carry that with me during my career.”
Ms Taylor, 21, will be mentored by faculty at Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Instituto Universitário de Lisboa.
She was one of four seniors from NYUAD to win the Fulbright Programme scholarship and Rhodes Scholarship, bringing the university’s total number of grant-winners up to 20.
Emirati Maitha Al Memari, who majored in social research and public policy, was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship that allows students to pursue two to three years of postgraduate study at Oxford University.
She intends to research ways to advance educational guidance in the UAE.
“After my master's, I plan to get employed in the field of education and social research,” said Ms Al Memari, who is 21.
Her interest in streamlining educational guidance stems from her own experiences in the country.
“I hope to find ways to ease the transition for students when they’re moving from high school to university to employment.”
Her research will be an extension of her capstone project that investigated factors influencing young Emiratis' academic decisions.
“My transition from university to my master's was easier than my transition to college because of the environment that I am in,” said Ms Al Memari.
“In high school, I struggled in picking what university I want to go to but I was lucky because my parents were very involved in the process. But it also made me aware that this environment is very unique especially in the context of the Middle East and the Gulf region. The majority of students don’t get the experience that I had here.”
In the past five years, NYUAD has produced 20 UAE Rhodes Scholars and Fulbright recipients, two of the most prestigious international awards.
NYU Abu Dhabi currently holds the highest acceptance rate of Rhodes Scholars per student of any university in the world.
And in the UAE, 13 graduates have received the Fulbright grant since 2006, 10 of whom are NYU Abu Dhabi students.
Both Ms Taylor and Ms Al Memari said leadership and a passion for community service are important qualities in students applying for global grants.
Being a part of the student government and volunteering in the community’s outreach programmes helped Ms Al Memari earn her grant and inspired her to delve deeper into her field of interest.
In 2015, Ms Al Memari spoke at TEDxNYUAD where she addressed stereotypes about Emiratis and specifically misconceptions about the abaya.
As a member of the RoadWatch team, she won the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Best m-Government Service Award, UAE University category, at the World Government Summit in 2016.
She also teaches high school pupils the power of female leadership as part of her volunteer work for the Girls’ Education Network.
“The application process is not an easy one,” said Ms Al Memari. "But it is what helped me narrow down what I am interested in. I found myself reflecting on the things that I have done and asking myself about which one excited me most and education was it.”
Ms Taylor said the process has taught her to be able to see past her self-doubt.
“I was afraid to come to Abu Dhabi and that turned out to be wonderful,” she said. “I was afraid of going for these opportunities and I know now that whatever happens it’ll all work out and I will land on my feet.”