Zayed University Student Blog3 Oct, 2021
Meet Gina Bou Serhal, a 2021 Master in Diplomacy and International Affairs Graduate with High Distinction
As indispensable and fast-paced the global interconnectedness is today, it is not devoid of contentions and challenges introduced by regular interactions within the international community. While globalization, internet, and technology innovation have fostered ease of communication and information-sharing across borders, it is imperative that this is done in a law-abiding and ethical framework. It is here that diplomacy and international relations, in theory and practice, make a significant contribution.
Zayed University prepares students enrolled in the Master in Diplomacy and International Affairs (MDIA) program to exert significant influence over international politics, law, economics, security, diplomacy, and governance. As a 2021 graduate of this program, Gina Bou Serhal shares her experience as a graduate student at Zayed University.
Q1. Why did you choose to study a Master in Diplomacy and International Affairs (MDIA)?
Answer: Being an American expat, living in the UAE since 2007, I initially built my career in architecture, following consecutive years of hospitality design experience. In 2016, as the uncertain social and political landscape began to mount back in the United States, I decided to go back to school and obtain a higher education degree, re-focusing my career in a completely new direction.
Dismayed at the events happening back home, I decided to convert my frustration and energy into something constructive by which I could utilize my abilities and desire to bring about change with the goal of doing my part to make a difference in our world. It was my belief that if each of us works towards an objective of unifying, rather than dividing society, no matter our fundamental differences, this collective effort of good will can only result in positive, sustainable change. It was this belief and my desires to change the path of my own future that led me to Zayed University after being a stay at home mom for almost ten years.
Q2. Why did you pursue the Master in Diplomacy and International Affairs at Zayed University?
Answer: Zayed University was my first choice of university for my graduate studies and I did not apply for graduate program admission elsewhere, which in retrospect was a bit of a risky move. I was hopeful I’d be accepted considering I met all the admissions criteria.
I was very keen on attending a university that predominantly had Emirati students. This would not only give me a unique advantage to understand how UAE Nationals perceive policies and decision making, but also the ability to understand their perceptions on the Middle East and international affairs.
Considering the UAE is a metropolitan country, it was my opinion that the most conducive method to work towards a prosperous future together begins with an understanding of the fundamentals and values of our closest allies and partners. This was what I hoped to achieve with my time at Zayed University.
Q3. Did your graduate studies contribute to the enhancement of your personal development and a sense of personal accomplishment?
Answer: No doubt I was a little overwhelmed at the beginning of my graduate studies. As a mom of three children and just about to turn 40 years old, I was heading somewhat blindly into the unknown. Yet at the same time I was determined to prove to myself that I could do this. More importantly, I wanted to prove to my children that it's never too late in life to change the course of your future, especially if you are unhappy with where you see your life is heading.
I never in my wildest dreams thought I could pull off completing my master’s degree with three children under the age of 10 in the middle of a global pandemic. But I did it. And I even managed to graduate with ‘High Distinction’ which just goes to show we all have a bit of a fight in us. As cliché as it sounds, the path to success lies first in believing in yourself, good time management skills, and certainly in my case, having a loving and supportive family who were there to root for me all along the way.
Q4. What role did the Zayed University faculty play in your professional development?
Answer: Getting to know the faculty at Zayed University and building strong professional relationships with my course instructors was one of my more memorable experiences during my studies. We were very fortunate considering some of our professors included former ambassadors and diplomats to the UAE which meant their extensive backgrounds in diplomacy and regional affairs helped to provide meaningful insights to our graduate studies and classroom discussions.
Q5. What are the job opportunities for a MDIA graduate?
Answer: It opens doors for job opportunities in socio-political and economic development including diplomacy, government agencies, international business, and more. The MDIA program can help non-UAE Nationals gain employment with their own embassies working as diplomats, for example. There are also plenty of NGOs and international organizations in the UAE such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) that offer job opportunities to graduates holding a master’s degree in diplomacy and international affairs. Another route - the one I am currently taking - is writing freelance for UAE-based think-tanks which pushes one to analyze and develop future policy and ideas. However, needless to say, job seeking, irrespective of one’s major, requires not only patience but also massive trust in oneself. My recommendation to job seekers is to stay true to yourself - be honest, be open, be kind.
Q6. What were some of the key takeaways from your experience as a Zayed University graduate student?
Answer: What I took with me from my experience at Zayed University was a strong sense of solidarity within the student body - we started as classmates yet completed our studies as family. One of the most rewarding aspects of living as an expat in the UAE is the insight one gains from interacting with so many different nationalities, religions, and people from all walks of life and my experience as a student at Zayed University was no different. Zayed University is an institution that not only respects but also promotes diversity of opinions. We were encouraged to think outside the box in addressing global challenges from the perspective of a collective, diverse society.
Graduates like Gina Bou Serhal upholds Zayed University’s proud legacy which is built on student success and their extraordinary contribution to society, inspiring future students to follow in their footsteps.
A copy of Gina’s latest paper “Decades of Political Mismanagement and Foreign Intervention Causing Lebanon’s Imminent Collapse” can be viewed here.