Alumni Profile: Emina Osmandzikovic (NYUAD ’17)
January 15, 2021
Surrounded by the sun and desert winds of Abu Dhabi, Emina Osmandzikovic (NYUAD ’17) found herself a long way from her home nation of Bosnia. As an incoming freshman Osmandzikovic was drawn to NYU Abu Dhabi for its dedication to education and global inclusivity, but what she found was an academic experience that allowed her to utilize policy to support displaced peoples and understand migration.
Today, she has acquired a wealth of knowledge about the Middle East and North African (MENA) region and applies her Arabic skills, writing abilities, and unflagging curiosity to conduct fieldwork and research about refugee movement as well as acute societal and political issues that influence it.
When you were applying to universities, what stood out to you about NYU Abu Dhabi?
There are two key things that spoke to me as a high school senior when I decided to apply.
The first quality of NYU Abu Dhabi at the time was its novelty, which invited me to be a part of tailoring its journey into a world-renowned institution in both scholarly and policy-oriented ways. As one concrete example, the classes were oriented to accommodate international students and yet correspond with region-specific and locally-based phenomena–an essential element of future leadership.
While there is no ranking, the second quality is the wealth of NYU Abu Dhabi’s connections that helped me create a truly global network of like-minded experts, scholars, and researchers later in my academic and professional career. In other words, the institution’s investment from early on always had that long-term projection in mind for every single student. And that is priceless.
How did you first become interested in policy and research?
As a freshman at NYU Abu Dhabi I took a course taught by Professor Adam Ramey, titled ‘Legitimacy.’ The word itself has no linguistic equivalent in my native Bosnian. Herein, one of the first in-class tasks was to discuss the cultural and language implications of its meaning among the students. Subsequently, we reenacted a historic trial of one of the French kings, making me see the modern-day relevance of archival precedents. And my path within policy and research within Political Science began.
Always believing in aspiring scholars, Professor Adam Ramey included me in his postgraduate research team as a research assistant upon graduation. I worked within a team of three until I started graduate studies.
This exposure gave me an opportunity to apply the theoretical and see real-life policy consequences of the abstract theories we had debated in class in my freshman year.
Can you tell us about a memorable course, club, or professor at NYU Abu Dhabi that made an impact?
Having never been exposed to debate in earlier education, I joined the NYU Abu Dhabi Debate SIG (student interest group) in my freshman year. At first, I was timid and yet passionate about what I wanted to convey. With time, my activities within the Debate SIG took me to Hong Kong and a few other places. In my sophomore year I became the vice-president of the SIG with the honor of organizing our very first regional debate tournament.
Going beyond the SIG activities, newly acquired debate skills helped me in my scholarly work, research projects and later professional career.
I will always be grateful to our debate mentor, Professor John Coughlin.
How has your experience at NYU Abu Dhabi influenced your life today?
Upon graduation I realized that my NYU Abu Dhabi journey transformed me from a curious, aspiring scholar from Bosnia to a confident researcher of forced displacement. The four-year rollercoaster shaped my personality, alleviated my critical thinking process, allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone, enabled my trips, and above all, helped me bring a bit of ‘global’ to my local community back home.
Today, I state with great confidence that I have yet to experience such diversity and global inclusion, which truly makes me proud of my years at NYU Abu Dhabi and its unrelenting legacy within my work.
What have you learned during your time in Abu Dhabi that could be helpful or insightful for others?
Above everything, the education that NYU Abu Dhabi has exposed me to continues even today. Looking beyond my classroom assignments, I tried to expose myself to a variety of programs, initiatives and groups, many of which I am still in touch with today.
Additionally, I become very eager to share my NYU experience when current students reach out to me, looking for ideas, guidance, and inspiration.
Can you tell us about the work you’re conducting today?
Upon graduating from NYU Abu Dhabi, I moved to the United Kingdom to pursue my graduate studies. With an MPhil degree from the University of Cambridge in Politics and International Relations, I moved back to the UAE as a Researcher with an Abu Dhabi-based think tank.
I later moved into media and policy work, where I currently find myself.
Following my graduation from NYU Abu Dhabi some four years ago, I have been able to publish four academic pieces on migration and displacement as well.
Your work has covered migration and displacement. What do you hope people take away from your findings? How could alumni interested in refugee work be more effective allies?
I believe that migration is a part of the human condition. My research attempts to tackle a mere one percent of the defining phenomenon of our time.
Given that my fieldwork and research have exposed me to the policy-making aspects of migration, in addition to its international legal implications and socio-economic impact on host-communities, what I wish for people to take away from my work is that refugees can be empowered if only given a chance.
Where do you hope your career will take you?
I wish to see myself as a game-changer on migration and displacement within both the educational field and on the ground among displaced populations.
What advice would you give to recent NYU graduates who want to enter the research field?
The best advice I can give to those who are just starting is to keep learning. I maintain eagerness to absorb new knowledge and expose myself to new aspects of migration and displacement, given its non-static nature. And above all, think deeply about the ways your research can impact someone’s life trajectory. If you help one person with your work, I believe they say that it is equal to helping the entire humanity.