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Professional Achievement Award Winner, 2018-19

Noha Aboueldahab outside Durham Law School

By:  Dr Noha Aboueldahad  Class of: 2016 College: Ustinov College  Subject: Law
Location: Doha, QatarTest

Durham alumna, Noha Aboueldahab won the Professional Achievement Award at the Study UK Alumni Awards in 2018-19

The Study UK Alumni Awards are a prestigious global award celebrating the outstanding achievements of the UK's international alumni around the world. Noha Aboueldahab is the Global winner of the Professional Achievement category 2019 who came back to visit Durham University and celebrate her achievement, give a careers talk and look back on her time at Durham.

Your time at Durham

I started my studies at Durham Law School in 2013. I had transferred my PhD studies from another University, and so when I joined Durham I was in the middle of doing my field research. The topic of my Phd research was about the prosecution of political leaders in the Arab region. It was a comparative study of four countries: Egypt Libya, Tunisia and Yemen. I travelled to those countries to conduct interviews with actors involved in transitional justice efforts. I was fortunate to have had a lot of support from Durham, my supervisors and my family. I was based in London at the time, where I had my children. As a result, there was a lot of back and forth between London and Durham. Although I was mostly based in London, I came back to Durham a lot for meetings and conferences. It was a very supportive unit here at Durham.

How did you end up choosing to study at Durham?

One of my best friends, Hana, graduated from Durham; she completed her masters here in 2006. I had come to visit her and I fell in love with Durham as a city. She remembers her time here very fondly, as do others I know who also graduated from Durham. I was also very fortunate to have found a fantastic and admirable supervisor, Professor Michael Bohlander, for my research and that is ultimately why I decided to enrol in Durham Law School.

Did your time at Durham inspire what you did next?

I had a lot of support, not just academic but personal as well. It was difficult starting a family during PhD research and travelling to conflict places like Libya and Yemen whilst I was heavily pregnant. But thankfully, Professor Bohlander and my secondary supervisor, Professor Thom Brooks, were very supportive. I only took one maternity leave, and even that was only five months! But as a woman, unfortunately, you feel like you are under pressure to keep going. The continued support since I graduated to this day has really helped me get to where I am. In Qatar, where I am currently based, there is a Durham alumni constituency and they all look back fondly on their Durham days. It is nice to be able to engage with alumni wherever you are and to maintain those connections.

Can you tell us about the Professional Achievement Award and how that came about?

I am part of the British UK alumni network in Qatar, managed through the British Council. I received an email encouraging UK alumni to apply for this award for the national rounds, so it was only for those based in Qatar with a UK degree. There are three categories for these awards: Professional Achievement, Entrepreneurship and Social Impact. I decided to apply for the Professional Achievement award, and I worked on this application for three days thinking this will never go anywhere. Then I learned that I was a finalist and I thought ‘Amazing! But who I am kidding – I am never going to win!’

In Qatar, the winners were not announced until the day of the ceremony, which took place at the Museum of Islamic Art. It was set up much like the Oscars - very elaborate with a red carpet, the winners’ names in sealed envelopes, and so on. I could not believe it when they announced my name for the Professional Achievement award! Months later, I received an email informing me that I was a finalist for the global competition as well. Soon after, I learned that I also won the global round for the Professional Achievement Award. Needless to say, I was thrilled with this news.

It has been inspiring to learn about the work of the other winners as well. The whole experience has been one that forces you to pause and think about the things that you have being trying to do. You rarely pause to think, where am I at? What can I do better? It has turned out to be a really good exercise in self-reflection.

What are you up to at the moment?

I work at the Brookings Doha Centre as a fellow doing research and policy work. We produce and disseminate rigorous, original research, and engage with policy makers, civil society, and practitioners with a view to having policy impact. My work focus is mainly on human rights, international law, transitional justice and criminal accountability. Doha is a great hub, so we receive a lot of think tank and political delegations from around the world interested in our analysis of political, social and legal issues in the Middle East and North Africa. I have also taught public international law at Georgetown University’s campus in Qatar to a group of bright and engaging students.

What is the one bit of advice you would give to the students?

To really appreciate and enjoy where you are at right now - the joys of studying at a university in such a great city. And, don’t be afraid of the uncertainty that encroaches as you come to the end of your studies – it brings with it a lot of unexpected opportunities.