The first batch of university graduates to coordinate with the Scholarship Coordination Office (SCO) was rewarded with an intimate reception attended by Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Presidential Affairs.
Dozens of distinguished UAE national students made their way to the Emirates Palace to celebrate their achievements and the often life-changing course of education.
Notes caught up with some of the students to ask them what they were doing now, and how the SCO had impacted their lives.
Yousuf Al Saeed Al Kuwaiti, 25
Graduated in Management Information Systems from the University of Arizona
Now works for the Emirates IT Authority
"I graduated with a 3.5 cumulative GPA.
"The scholarship provided us with an environment where we could produce. It gave us directions as to where we have to start our academic life.
"It builds personality and character. They gave us the best experience; I got to intern with Microsoft and Intel, and I could come back here and apply my knowledge.
"I really want to thank the Scholarship Office for giving us this opportunity and making us valuable members of society."
Ahlam Al Marzouqi, 24
University of Maryland College
Graduated in 2004
Now works as an environmental analyst at the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi
"I went to New York in 1999 when I finished high school and studied English for a year, and then went to college.
"The scholarship literally changed my life. I became more independent, a self-motivator. It made me believe that you will only become distinguished if you're put in a difficult situation. I'm speechless when it comes to how much I've learned.
"We faced many challenges, a new culture, a new life. When we went there, we weren't as exposed … as much as we are now in the UAE. Everything was new for us. We crossed all these obstacles and we did great."
Asma Ahmad Al Ameri, 24
Purdue University, Indiana
Graduated with a degree in genetic biology
Now works at a psychogenetic laboratory, studying chromosomes and diseases
"The scholarship helped me a lot. Academically, it was a good experience, as we had more facilities and more opportunities to experience the science itself. I learnt to face my own problems and depend on myself; I know that nobody will save me, I have to do it myself.
"I think it [the experience] changed me more personally than educationally. For girls it's very different; over here we depend a lot on our families, but over there, you go to school, do your groceries and cook!"
Nasser Ahmad Al Rashedi, 25
University of Southern California
Majored in telecommunications engineering
Now works at the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority
"The scholarship changed my life. When we joined we were just finishing high school, we were so young. I don't think we would have considered joining such distinguished universities without the guidance of the scholarship office. With their help and guidance we were able to apply and get accepted. They always followed up with us and made sure we were on the right track.
"I came back to the UAE in 2004, and the office helped me in finding and applying for jobs. I had only thought of working for Etisalat, but they opened my eyes to the TRA, so they give you options."
Hanan Ahmad Balalaa
University of Iowa
Now works at ADCO
"The biggest impact the scholarhip had was on my personality; it was a completely different culture and people and surroundings. It helped me prove myself as a person, and helped me have a new outlook towards life; especially when you come to the UAE and try to mix Eastern culture and Western culture. It makes you focused: you've gotta get there and go for it.
"The good thing about the US is that people are very friendly. It was difficult first, as I had just turned 18 and was still quite young. But once you make friends and get to know things around you, you can fit in easily. It was an enriching and great experience that turned my life around."
Ahmad Al Durra, 24
Doing masters in control systems at Ohio State University
"After I graduated, I had a contract with ADNOC to work at the Petroleum Institute as an assistant professor. But first I wanted to continue my masters and PhD, so I am now doing my masters in control systems.
"The scholarship was very good, it really motivated us to do our best by supporting us and following us. When you're 18, sometimes you fall back and you miss the way to reach your goal.
"The office gave us good advice and would follow up with us when we were not doing well. They were closer to us than our families, and after we graduated they offered us a variety of choices of job opportunities." "
Shehab Al Awadi, 25
Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York
"I now work in Dubai at the World Trade Centre. The scholarship is a great stepping stone for when you come back here. The office will place you in a job that fits with what you've studied. They were really good at what they did, they really monitored the students, and made sure we were well on track.
"Personally, it provided me with a good opportunity to start off and go to university in the first place. It allowed me to excel in what I wanted to do. They provided me with the scholarship, and in turn, I provided them with my expertise."
The Scholarship Coordination Office
The Scholarship Coordination Office (SCO) was created in 1999 under the direct supervision of Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Presidential Affairs.
Each year, outstanding Emirati students are selected to travel abroad in pursuit of their education at prestigious international universities.
Students are selected for one of two scholarships administered by the SCO — the original Distinguished Student Scholarship (DSS) and the Study Abroad Scholarship Programme (SASP).
For information on application process, visit the Scholarship Coordination Office website at www.sco.org.ae