UAEU PhD Student Finds Passion in Education
Young Emiratis across the UAE have developed an interest in South Asian entertainment
over the past few years. Urwa Tariq, PhD Candidate in Mass Communication at the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU)
has set out to dive deeper into the topic through her “Hallyu [Korean Wave] Impact
Study”. One of her PhD courses was about discovering interesting matters in local
society, and Ms. Tariq noticed the attraction of Emirati women to South Korean entertainment.
Her professor agreed, and Ms. Tariq kicked off her research in the field in 2017.
Stemming from a business background, she had not been exposed to academic research,
so she began training with Dr. Maha Bashri, Associate Professor in Media and Creative
Industries. “I give her the credit,” Ms. Tariq said. “She exposed me to the world
of academic research and emphasised the importance of taking up research themes which
are rarely spoken about – she taught me to take the credit for my ideas and my individual
She found very few research papers had been published about UAE youth and society,
the local media consumption pattern, and how digital media impacts the new generation.
Today, five years on, she believes she can contribute to filling that gap, through
research work and her PhD thesis. Ms. Tariq discovered at an early stage the long
process of publishing a research paper including careful journal selection and avoiding
predatory journals. Two and a half years later, her paper has finally been published
in the Common Grounds Scholar:
Tariq, Urwa . 2021. "Say Hello to the Digital Hallyu Wave in the UAE: The Rising Digital
South Korean Wave among Emirati Women and its Impact on their Cultural Identity." The
Journal of Communication and Media Studies6 (3): 1-14. doi:10.18848/2470-9247/CG
Following her first project, Ms. Tariq worked on her next research project studying
Japanese Anime fandoms in the UAE, focusing on media accessibility, habits and cultural
perceptions. Her previous paper on Korean entertainment led her to notice the exposure
of Emirati youth to Japanese anime 30 years ago. Today, these youth have created cartoons
and entertainment shows that have unfortunately not amassed the audience or interest
they had hoped for. Asked about the reasons, most respondents pointed at the poor
quality of the content, a lack of government support in terms of career and not enough
resources to compete with international media.
As she moved on to her third collaborative paper, Ms. Tariq focused on Emirati female
illustrators, who she discovered had created their own virtual world on the social
media platform, Instagram, to visually express themselves. “Social media has helped
them to escape the reality of society and express themselves freely,” she said. “The
illustrations are not just cartoons, they express meaning.” After interviewing around
25 professional illustrators, she discovered that they were aware of their potential
but felt a lack of support from the government and the media. As a result, such a
lack of exposure and encouragement created a gap where many do not feel recognised.
The extensive research undertaken by Ms. Tariq for all three papers required ample
support. Dr. Meera Al Kaabi, Chair of the UAEU’s Linguistics Department, supported
Ms. Tariq by exposing her to teaching right from the beginning of her PhD. She became
a Teaching Assistant and was entrusted to lead her first classes.
Soon after, she was noticed by Dr. Fadwa Al Mughairbi, who was an Assistant Dean of
the UAEU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences in 2018. “When you show eagerness
to learn as a student, you will get support,” Ms. Tariq noted. That support led her
to enrol in a Teaching Academic Programme 2019 at the University’s College of Graduate
Studies – an intense one-year course for PhD students to learn about teaching and
research. She was also exposed to using digital technology in student interactions,
while training in curriculum building and course syllabus. “We had theoretical lessons
and then we were assigned to our colleges,” she said. “I was shortlisted by my advisor,
so she became my shadow teacher. It helped a lot – I was under her for two semesters
leading classes, creating and marking exam papers, and we were trained from A to Z.”
Ms. Tariq gave full credit to the UAEU for such training, describing her PhD experience
as one of the best in her life. “I felt really enthusiastic the whole time,” she added.
“If you are passionate about something, everything flows easily.” Her main takeaways
have been learning to become more focused, to the point, and professional. The University
provided her with the tools to achieve such skills and completed her full cycle of
education. This, she stated, is a very important aspect to learn within this region
as “teaching is an art: the more creative it is, the higher chances of empowering
students, and mentors should be trained beforehand.”
Now in her last semester, Ms. Tariq is looking for on-the-ground experience, as she
pursues her part-time work with the UAEU’s College of Business and Economics in its
new MBA programme, due to launch soon. “It gives me a good idea of how things are
going to be when it comes to launching new programmes, getting students and course-curriculum
building,” she concluded. “The journey has just started”.