Photo courtesy of Uljad Bedica.

Spotlight: NYUAD’s Newest Rhodes Scholar Uljad Berdica

NYUAD student Uljad Berdica was recently selected for the Rhodes Scholarship by Oxford University. The Gazelle sat down with him to gain insights into his journey and ambitions in an exclusive interview.

Nov 28, 2021

On Nov. 17, Uljad Bedica, Class of 2022, was declared a 2022 UAE Rhodes Scholar. The NYU Abu Dhabi student will be pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering Sciences at the University of Oxford.
The Rhodes Scholarship is one of the oldest and most prestigious international scholarships, enabling outstanding students from around the world to study at Oxford. The scholarships average $70,000 per year and cover all expenses for two or three (in some cases, four) years of graduate study. Recipients are free to study the full range of disciplines offered at Oxford, including life sciences, arts and humanities, social sciences, mathematics and physical sciences.
Berdica’s research focused on the intersectionality of data-based solutions and the larger social good. Throughout his journey at NYUAD, his main motive was to be as technically proficient as possible as he aspires to improve institutional configuration back in his home country of Albania. Besides his professional goals, he also has a strong passion for stand up comedy and performance: “I have always tried to grapple between the arts and humanities and my highly technical professional life.” Berdica revealed that the application process was incredibly demanding and grueling. It included a statement of purpose, a comprehensive curriculum vitae and a concrete intent to apply. A standout quality he highlighted in his application was his ability to traverse the lines of science as an engineer and also tap into other subject areas such as the arts and humanities. “I like to dissect important things through the lens of a scientist but at the same time look at the complexity of human emotions through art,” he shared.
Berdica’s high involvement with various initiatives and projects on and off campus could have also given him a substantial edge: “A research internship with my electronics professor really helped me understand what I wanted to do. He helped me understand how engineering could help me do it and it was a great opportunity to contextualize research in order to solve real-world problems. These small breakthroughs in constructive peer-reviewed research would later herald ... towards innovations that would impact the real world.”
Other activities he was involved in included the Boys Education Network and working as vice-chair for the IEEE student branch, further highlighting his role as an active member of the NYUAD community.
Berdica also expressed his gratitude to the resources available at NYUAD that helped him structure his application in the most presentable way possible: “Everyone at the Career Development Center encouraged me to apply, but at the same time acquainted me with the potential benefits and pitfalls that I might encounter in the process and it turns out the process was exactly how they described it. They assisted me in preparing for mock interviews and provided me with consistent feedback and support with regards to other aspects of my application.”
In the long run, Berdica hopes to be engaged in research for quite a while after he completes his doctorate at Oxford. Beyond that, he looks forward to being involved in projects happening in and around the UAE as he believes that the nation is at the forefront of global change. However, he also sees returning to his home country and being involved in leadership positions as a potential option.
To students aspiring to apply to the Rhodes Scholarship, Berdica gave the following advice: “Be open to taking classes that are beyond your major or beyond your required path of graduation. Knowledge is like fine wine but your GPA ages like old milk. Don’t let the thought of your GPA ever jeopardize your desire to take a certain class. The most important part is to grow as a human being through your undergraduate education and an unsatisfying grade may later pay off in many other ways.”
Aarushi Prasad is a staff writer. Email her at
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