Young Emirati woman takes on nuclear energy studies in Japan

A woman from Fujairah said she wants to help the environment and be able to work in alternative sources of energy.

Emirati student Badreya Al Yammahi has enrolled in a youth programme with the intent of studying nuclear energy. Kayo Yamawaki for The National
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TOKYO // It may not be the most obvious destination for Emirati high- school graduates, but for Fujairah-born Badreya Al Yammahi Tokyo was key to her choice of career.

The 19-year-old enrolled in a youth programme established between Japan and the UAE with the intent of studying nuclear energy.

“I wanted to study nuclear energy because we don’t have many programmes in this field in our country,” she said. “I initially chose Korea but it wasn’t as safe or secure as Japan, so I chose Japan. I want to help the environment and to be able to work in alternative sources of energy because this is the future.”

Ms Al Yammahi is also a part of the Youth Exchange Programme, which runs parallel to the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) in Japan. Its objectives are to teach the youth of member countries about the tragedies caused by atomic bombs and to hear the voices of the people of Hiroshima.

“I started six months ago at the Japanese Language Centre with a year and a half of learning Japanese because they don’t teach nuclear engineering in English,” said Ms Al Yammahi. “Then, I will attend university and I have the choice between Tokyo University, Soka University or Hiroshima University, for four years.”

The youth programme, which runs on Friday and Saturday in Hiroshima, involves students between the ages of 15 to 19 from Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, the Philippines and the UAE.

“It’s the first time I leave my family in the UAE, and they were afraid at first but now they’re happy I’m here studying this subject,” said Ms Al Yammahi, one of 11 children in her family. “The future is all about energy so I think it’s important to learn about it.”

The hope is that the students will share the knowledge with their peers once they return to their home countries, and to make the next generation aware of the efforts of the NPDI.

“The students will have a short discussion with the ministers and they will meet a few survivors of the atomic bomb,” said a Japanese foreign ministry official. “Time is passing and people are forgetting about the tragedy, so it’s important to have education of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.”

But it was not easy for Ms Al Yammahi to get involved in nuclear energy.

“I had no support from the get-go and no one agreed with me except for my mother,” she said. “If Emiratis are interested in nuclear energy, Japan is a good place to to study it. Alternative sources of energy are important for our future. More Emiratis should get into this field and Emirati women should know it’s OK if they want to get into nuclear. I think the Ministry of Education plans on sending 500 students in five years to study in Japan.”

Her longer-term plan is to move to Abu Dhabi to work either for Masdar, Adnoc or the UAE’s nuclear programme.

“When I found out she wanted to study in Japan, I immediately said no problem,” said Fatmah Al Hefeiti, Ms Al Yammahi’s mother. “I like my children to go abroad to study and when it comes to studies, there shouldn’t be any barriers. One of my daughters just graduated from school and she is also thinking of studying abroad. When you need to go, you need to go and if you want to stay in the UAE, that’s also fine.

“We were just afraid for the first time when Badreya came here so my husband and I came for 10 days to have a look at the country and at her university,” she said. “I liked everything here and it’s a safe place, although it’s a bit far from Fujairah.”

The family must drive to Dubai to travel to Tokyo.

“The only problem is to get a visa to come here but this is my second visit and I will stay for seven days,” Ms Al Hefeiti said. “Nuclear energy is the future and I like the fact that she is involved in that, especially for the future of the UAE.”