Alumna Emina Osmandzikovic (International Relations and Politics, 2017) reflects on her passions and professional choices
I have always seen research as the basis of knowledge, especially in today's world where the excess of data begs high-quality filtering in order to properly tackle each phenomenon of our time. Building on my background and starting as a data analyst fascinated with numbers behind migration, I managed to elevate my academic inquiry into the field that marked our century - forced migration and conflict-induced displacement.
As a Bosnian who was born during the war in the former Yugoslavia and raised in the post-war period, I consider myself a naturally diligent scholar with a focus on forced migration. Given that most of my family members fled Bosnia as refugees during the war in the 1990s, my deeply personal bond with forced migration propelled me to uncover its depths during my undergraduate years at New York University, and later pursue the subject further during my graduate study at the University of Cambridge.
As a data-driven researcher, I have gone above and beyond to incorporate my quantitative skills on research in the fields of security, risk, public policy and geo-politics, tackling future scenarios and socio-economic impacts of the most acute issues in the region, the latest one being the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations. These are all issues that are marking the global reality we live in, which makes my work important in illuminating the intertwined nature of global events and their repercussions on populations around the world.
Currently a researcher at an Abu Dhabi-based think tank, I have been focusing on the data gap between the Middle East and the wider world on a range of topics, including international security, conflict de-escalation, peace studies and geo-political modelling.
The motivation hides itself behind my direct interaction with people on the ground. As the most notable example, I spent several months conducting interviews with displaced Syrians and collecting data in Saudi Arabia, ultimately mapping out the Saudi system for reception of displaced populations as an alternative to the 1951 Refugee Convention in non-signatory countries.
In parallel to my public policy and research oriented work, I have been a contributing writer for Arab News, a Saudi-based English Language daily newspaper, periodically publishing research-based reports on the geo-political status of vulnerable populations in the MENA region. Through this experience, I've been able to expand the audience that reads and interacts with my work, reaching more than 135,000 people with one story. This is highly valuable as a source of motivation, as it allows me to cover the most acute topics, one being the issue of honor killings, and give voice to those who don't necessarily have a platform to speak up.
As an Associate Fellow with the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, I was able to liaise between government and civil society organizations on health, employment and education of vulnerable populations, thus providing policy-makers with a comprehensive overview of the official system, which was subsequently published. As a young researcher at the start of my career, I have been facing a plethora of obstacles, primarily because many in the field nudge young experts to the side, which I have felt numerous times; however, I persevered. To that extent, my hard work can serve other young people as evidence that age, especially in today's world, cannot be a deterrent for accomplishing one's goals.
In parallel to my work, I continue to publish academic work as well, keeping my focus on the European Union and my native region of Southeast Europe. Having written this, I'd say that I am never afraid to expand my horizons while keeping track of the areas that I had already tackled, which truly keeps me intellectually engaged in any topic I cover. Keepings these bridges alive and ticking as I move forward is what I would highlight as inspiring to me as well, which affects my personal growth in a very humbling way.
I think the secret is in maintaining balance between one’s goals and the unpredictability of life. I think this is best exemplified with an old Bosnian saying: God laughs when man plans, implying that we always have to maintain a level of flexibility in our life plans, which also makes them breathable, achievable and amenable to our own internal changes as we walk through life.
During my time at Lucy Cavendish, I truly pushed myself outside of my comfort zone by being in charge of the college bar. Managing such a high-demand enterprise while studying was a challenge. The lovely Lucy ladies made the experience absolutely worth it; I learned to manage an entire team and liaise between different groups of people in order to produce miracles when it came to bops.
Overall, my year at Lucy was a truly cathartic experience. During my time at the College, I was the recipient of the Seamark PLC Award for my research fieldwork. As much as I grew as a young scholar of Politics and International Relations, Lucy Cavendish enabled me to transform as a person. There are many afternoons I spent on the top floor of the library, reading into the sunset, taken by the beauty of the college red brick houses and the surrounding greenery. The statue of books in front of the library is where my entire class took pictures with the hard copy of our theses, praying for good results.
Beyond my initial expectations, Lucy Cavendish instilled new values in my persona, galvanizing me to seek my own depths further wherever I happen to live and whatever I happen to do. And every subsequent year since I left Cambridge to pursue my career, the College keeps surprising me with its innovative outlook into the future of higher education.
About Emina Osmandzikovic
Emina is a Researcher at TRENDS Research & Advisory in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where she produces original research on topics within global security, foreign policy, geopolitics, strategy, economics and public policy. In the past six years, Emina has had an exceptionally thorough research and public policy experience in the MENA region, especially in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Acquiring Arabic skills and utilizing the language in her fieldwork, she has been able to further her research inquiry into the most acute issues for societies and policymakers, always striving to apply quantitative methods in the field she is passionate about.