For NYU Abu Dhabi senior Arfa Rehman, the 2015 Rhodes Scholarship is just the latest in a long list of achievements—from a perfect 4.0 GPA to top prize in a 2013 Student Design Challenge for her animated data visualization of street vending in Abu Dhabi. (Her graphic design work has been shown in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and France.) A double major in social research and public policy and visual arts who maintains an active volunteering schedule, she also taught art and IT for four summers in Bangalore.  

What’s next? Well, Oxford, of course. But NYU Stories caught up with this multitalented scholar before the big move to ask about her sources of inspiration, and what she does when she finds a rare moment of downtime.

photo: portrait of NYU Abu Dhbai senior Arfa Rehman

Aligarh, India / Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

What you were doing when you found out you won the Rhodes:
I was in the middle of a presentation for my senior thesis when the announcement was made, so I didn’t find out till I checked my phone after the presentation.

Your immediate reaction:
I told my friends and roommates and called my mother.

Leaders who inspire you:
Leila Janah, Indra Nooyi

One thing you'd change about the world, if you were queen for a day:
Gender inequality

Artists who inspire you:
A lot! Malevich, Saul Bass, Paula Scher, Camille Zakharia, Botticelli, Osman Hamdi Bey, Rene Magritte

What do your doodles look like?
Abstract patterns

Most challenging academic project you've worked on so far:
My capstone thesis on entrepreneurship in the UAE

Dream job when you were 5:

Dream job now:
My ideal career now is in social entrepreneurship and innovation.

What you’ll study at Oxford:
I plan to do an MSc in Sociology because of the interest I’ve developed in economic sociology thorough my capstone thesis.

What you're most looking forward to about moving to the U.K:
Variations in the weather!

Book that changed your life:
Imaginary Maps by Mahasweta Devi

Most influential NYU class/professor:
Justin Stearns at NYUAD

Best advice you've ever received:
Treat failures like lessons.

Song that pumps you up:
“I Wish I Was a Girl” by The Vaccines

Favorite TV show to binge watch:

Favorite junk food:
French fries

What brings you peace:
Talking to my mother, and YouTube