Meet UBC’s latest Rhodes Scholar: Fatima Zehra Naqvi

UBC Arts Alumna Fatima Zehra Naqvi (BA ’17) has won a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. Photo by Katherine Ho.

UBC Arts Alumna Fatima Zehra Naqvi is among 11 Canadians who have been named Rhodes Scholars for 2018.

One of the most competitive and prestigious scholarships in the world, the Rhodes Scholarship funds two to three years of postgraduate study at the University of Oxford.

Zehra graduated in 2017 with a BA Honours in English Literature and Creative Writing. Her research and writing focuses on issues of borders, migration and displacement. In her final year at UBC, Zehra co-designed and co-facilitated a student-directed seminar on “Analyzing 21st Century Migratory and Social Movements Through New Media and Postcolonial Literature.”

Zehra is a Wesbrook Scholar, a recipient of the English Honours Medal, and the Teresa Tenisci Memorial Prize for demonstrating exceptional achievement in UBC’s Creative Writing Program. She is the winner of Room magazine’s 2016 Poetry Contest. Her work has appeared in various publications, including Room, Jaggery and The New Quarterly.

Zehra intends to pursue an MSc in Migration Studies at Oxford and to use storytelling and journalism to influence policy making in support of migrants and refugees. We asked her to reflect on her time at UBC and the significance of winning a Rhodes Scholarship.

What were some of the most meaningful experiences you had at UBC?
It’s the people I met at UBC, the mentors and friends I found through my classes and involvement in community activities, who made my time at UBC all the more meaningful. Finishing my degree was not easy, but I found moments of tenderness, acceptance, and accommodation from students, faculty and staff, and those moments helped me succeed. 

What advice would you have for current Arts students about making the most of their time at UBC?
I think it helps to have a sense of purpose and a sense of direction. What drives you, makes you angry, fires you up with hope? How do you want to contribute to your communities? What’s something that matters to you that may not matter to others? Keeping these questions in mind while I was at UBC helped me choose courses and extracurricular activities that were fulfilling, and provided me with the tools and experiences I needed to make an impact. Additionally, as an Arts student, my education outside of my classes was just as valuable, so it’s important to design an education for yourself that exists beyond the classrooms and textbooks. 

What does winning a Rhodes Scholarship mean to you?
Winning a Rhodes Scholarship feels life-changing. But I feel I did not win it on my own. I am very blessed to have had people around me who believed in me, pushed me, and supported me when things got challenging during my degree. This accomplishment is just as much theirs. I hope to make the most of this opportunity and give back to my community. 


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