NYU Abu Dhabi political science major Hamel Al Qubaisi was hard at work on his senior thesis when he got a phone call—from Oxford, saying he’d been named a 2015 Rhodes Scholar for the United Arab Emirates. What’d he do then? Kept working on his essay, believe it or not (hey, deadlines are deadlines!)—a study on the effectiveness of UAE foreign aid that he hopes to expand on when he heads to Oxford in the fall.

The first Emirati President of NYU Abu Dhabi’s student government, Al Qubaisi also spent semesters in New York, at the Washington Square Campus, and at NYU London, where he conducted research for the UAE Embassy.

We couldn’t be prouder, which is why we reached out to get to know this superstar scholar a little better—by asking the really tough questions (best bagel in New York, anyone?) that might not have come up in his Rhodes interview.

photo: Hamel Al Qubaisi drinking from a coconut

Hometown: Abu Dhabi

First person you told when you won the Rhodes:
My dad, who was (typically) watching the news.

Leaders who inspire you:
I am inspired by visionaries who make dreams come true like Qin Huangdi, the founder of the Qin dynasty and the first leader to unify China, Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the United Arab Emirates, John Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, and the list goes on.

One thing you'd change about the world, if you were king for a day:
I would make teaching mandatory for one year to all people who are able to do so. There is nothing nobler than that.

Most challenging academic project you've worked on:
I wrote an essay discerning Mao Zedong’s philosophy towards nature after reading over 20 poems he wrote. I kept bothering my Chinese friends to make sure the English translation is adequate.

Favorite place to grab lunch around Washington Square:
Bagels at the Square, West Village. It was the first time in my life that I had bagels! I believe I’ve fallen in love.

Favorite place to grab lunch around NYU London:
There was this awesome Korean restaurant a two minute walk away from the British Museum. I cannot remember the name but they had awesome kimchi!

What you plan to study at Oxford:
I am planning to study International Relations at Oxford. Trust me when I say this is because I am terrible at everything else.

What you're most looking forward to about moving to the U.K:
The weather. I am tired of the heat here in Abu Dhabi.

Book that changed your life:
Without thinking twice, it’s Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl.

Best advice you've ever received:
Do not lie because it is an unsustainable enterprise.

Song that pumps you up:
I actually prefer calm music with flutes and pianos.

Favorite TV show to binge watch:
I like Black Sails. I cannot wait for Season 3 to be out.

Favorite junk food:
Shake Shack, of course.

What brings you peace:
Playing FIFA with friends on Playstation 4.