Simone Noorali, 17, is a beacon of expatriate hope in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), home to over two million (or 27 lakh) Indians who form the largest diaspora group in the oil-rich Arabian Gulf.
She has emerged as the poster girl for Dubai, one of the seven and the most populous emirates in the UAE, which is celebrating 2019 as the Year of Tolerance to strengthen the sheikhdom’s role of encouraging stability and prosperity in the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, amid economic downturn because of sliding crude oil prices and growing regional instability due to protracted conflict in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Simone, a symbol of hard work and perseverance, has secured admission from as many as seven top-notch US-based universities, including two Ivy League schools — Dartmouth College and University of Pennsylvania.
The University of California in Berkeley, John Hopkins, Emory, Georgetown and George Washington University have also tapped her up as recognition of her stupendous 100th percentile score — 36 out of 36 — in the standarised American College Testing, or ACT, a pre-requisite to secure a spot in US colleges.
Simone, who by her own admission was “an introvert and shy” girl during her formative years, has all along been a student of Uptown School at Mirdif, Dubai that offers the International Baccalaureate, or IB.
Simone’s achievements are a jewel in Uptown School’s crown. The institution had had no track record of students applying to US universities, let alone getting an admission at an Ivy League school.
Simone attributes her success to principal Christopher Bromham, English teacher Ellen O'Donovan and other supportive faculty members.
Her parents — father Sameer, a talent and development manager with a media and entertainment company, Arabian Radio Network that runs nine FM radio stations, and mother Rehnuma, who left her cushy job as a UAE government relations officer to focus on Simone and her younger brother Adam Ali, 15 — have been determined to give the best of education to their children, despite the tough prevailing economic conditions in the UAE.
At Dh 80,000 a year (Rs 15,201,24), the tuition fees of Uptown School are steep compared to the median monthly income of an average expatriate worker in the UAE at around Dh 4,000 (Rs 76,000).
"We’ve cut down on our other expenses, but never for a moment thought of compromising on the quality of education for our children," says Sameer.
And, Simone certainly didn’t disappoint her parents. Besides scoring an impressive chain of straight As since Grade 9, she has struck a perfect balance between academics and her extracurricular activities.
Her diverse talent and multi-tasking abilities are exemplified in the various roles she successfully juggled through her high school years, and excelling in each of them with aplomb.
She is an accomplished pianist; band captain for the Aga Khan Scouts and Guides Group — Simone belongs to the Shia Ismaili community — since she was only 12 years old, co-authored a soon-to-be-released book, Weekends with Zoe, with Jeronino (Jerry) Almedia and Vinay Gupta, has been an integral part of Uptown School’s Model United Nations programme, and was also its inaugural secretary-general.
In retrospect, as she savours the lingering success of a well-deserved academic recognition, Simone can't but reflect on her struggles and the stress she underwent while taking a crack at the ACT. She has succinctly captured her trials and tribulations in her college application essays that depict a roller-coaster ride of an ambitious teenager coping with the sheikdom’s harsh economic realities.
Simone, who is spoilt for choice for which university to opt for, has a rare clarity of thought for a teenager. She wants to pursue “a course in international relations and economics, and serve the humanity at large”.
She says, “However, I’m open to new ideas, and anticipate the opportunities available to me this Fall on my arrival to the US, and will certainly keep an eye out for disciplines that I’ve not considered so far.”
Funding, though, remains a major stumbling block. None of the American universities have offered any scholarship to her, and Sameer has to pay through his nose to ensure Simone realises her cherished dream.
Sameer, however, is unfazed by the mounting financial challenge. “We’ll be spending every last bit of our savings on her education,” he says as he soaks in the good wishes of his family and friends of her daughter’s remarkable achievements.
Updated Date: Apr 30, 2019 14:58:59 IST