x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Diplomatic skills that run in the family

When it came to choosing a career, Reem al Otaiba did not need long to decide. Coming from a family which includes several diplomats, it was clear where her future lay.

Reem al Otaiba is an A grade student of the master's programme of Zayed University.
Reem al Otaiba is an A grade student of the master's programme of Zayed University.

ABU DHABI // When it came to choosing a career, Reem al Otaiba did not need long to decide. Coming from a family which includes several diplomats, it was clear where her future lay. One of her cousins, Yousef, is the UAE's ambassador to the US, while another, Hissa, is the ambassador to Spain. Her uncle was once the Minister of Petroleum and a personal adviser to Sheikh Zayed, the late president and founder of the nation.

Ms al Otaiba, 20, decided against studying abroad. With the support of her family, she opted instead to stay in the UAE and develop her skills first before embarking on a career requiring travel. "I really want to see the world and think this is the way to do it," she said. "I wasn't ready to study abroad as I think it's hard for a girl in a hijab to study in the US - for example in the wake of 9/11 - so I had my concerns.

"I wanted to make myself ready for the outside world, with as much professional help as possible." She is an A-grade student in the master's programme and is the youngest on the course. She has been spotted as a rising star and of the 22 students she is the only one not already working for the ministry, having qualified on her academic merits instead. Ms al Otaiba has high hopes for her time on the world stage. She knows that as a woman, she will be in the minority within the field, but feels that this confers a certain responsibility and hopes it will help her become a role model to Muslim women, not only in the UAE but around the world.

"I just need the skills and the tools to do this and that's why I'm here," she said. "I have to be ready, to know how to respond if someone comes to me on an issue like religion and politics. I need to be confident to give the best answer." The second youngest of nine siblings, she is a graduate of International Studies from Zayed University. She speaks passionately about the course, enthralled by the range of subjects it entails.

"Here, you get to see a different perspective to what you learn as an undergraduate. You sit and listen, you listen to the world. It's incredible. It's things you never knew - or you knew, but never understood." @Email:mswan@thenational.ae