From left: Amal Badri, Umaimah Abdul Aziz and Omar Al Busaidy during a media roundtable at the US embassy. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Emirati graduates accepted into the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship have spoken of their excitement of going to the US with the chance of engaging in cross-cultural dialogue as they complete their two-year studies.

The scholarship, founded in 1946 by US senator J. William Fulbright, is aimed at promoting academic exchange, giving successful candidates the opportunity to study at any US university with both their tuition and daily living expenses paid for. In the UAE, the scholarship is open to Emiratis only, with applications still being accepted for the scholarship’s next cycle in 2020. The deadline for submissions is June 13.

“The Fulbright [Scholarship] is more than just a masters degree programme; it’s a programme that selects young Emiratis who showcase leadership and desire to serve their communities. The goal of it really is for them to be cultural ambassadors for their country to universities across the US and then come back to the UAE to make the UAE an even greater nation,” said Charlotte Young Fadare, cultural affairs officer at the US embassy, during a media roundtable on Monday.

Omar Al Busaidy, one of the three accepted Emirati applicants, said he hoped to create an understanding of Arabs and Muslims as he pursues his masters in international affairs at Florida State University.

“What I aspire to do is to bridge the cultures and gap [between the US and the UAE]. As we see now with what’s happening around the world, with certain kinds of media and the [negative] message they are putting about the Middle East, Arabs and Islam, when we go there we are hopefully going to change that perception.”

Al Busaidy added he was also looking forward to experiencing the American presidential election in person, which is set to take place in November 2020.

Amal Badri, who will be pursuing a two year masters in mechanical engineering at Penn State University, said she plans to use what she learns in nanotechnology for the benefit of the UAE.

“I will be focusing my research specifically on nanotechnology to enhance medical devices. I took that path because it’s something that is still uncommon in the UAE even though it’s a very big industry in the US and in a lot of countries around the world.”

Along with her education, Badri said the cultural aspect of the scholarship was also very appealing.

“It’s a great cultural exchange, so on top of studying and gaining knowledge from a great school in the US, I will also be like an ambassador to the country. We’re going to be promoting cross cultural exchange between the UAE and the US, enhancing tolerance between both countries.”

Umaimah Abdul Aziz, an Emirati graduate of the Fulbright Scholarship in clinical psychology back in 2012, recounted her own positive experiences explaining how she interacted with people who had never engaged with a Muslim woman in a headscarf.

“It was a great opportunity for me to take my Emirati culture to a niche market where they had never engaged with someone with a headscarf in a mental health field, so it was a unique experience for me.

“I indulged myself in a lot of experiences over there and I didn’t limit myself. I also invited a lot of faculty members and students into my house. I went to the US when it was Ramadan so it gave me the opportunity to actually have a really nice sort of introduction into who I am and how my culture practices Ramadan,” she added.

Prospective students may apply by following the online application instructions at