Hijjas Wins Malaysian Rhodes Scholarship

Cabot resident becomes fourth winner this year

Before recently winning the Malaysian Rhodes Scholarship, Mulaika Hijjas '99 thought the judges in her home country would give the prestigious award to someone planning to go into politics perhaps a prospective Prime Minister.

Yet it is Hijjas who is the recipient of Malaysia's only Rhodes Scholarship, which she will use to meet her goals of learning Arabic and returning home to teach.

"It was rather unexpected," Hijjas, a Cabot House literature concentrator, said. "The notification came by e-mail, and I thought someone was playing a trick on me."

Hijjas joins three Harvard undergraduates who won Rhodes Scholarships in the U.S. competition.

The nine countries that award the prestigious scholarship announce recipients at different times.


Seema Jayachandran, a Cabot House fellowship tutor who assisted Hijjas with her application, described her as "a very impressive person, both academically and extracurricularly".

The Rhodes Scholarship was established in 1904 by the estate of South African financier and politician Cecil Rhodes, who wanted to bring students from nine beneficiary countries to England's Oxford University, his alma mater. Rhodes hoped to promote international understanding and harmony.

The scholarship provides for two or three years of study at Oxford.

The Malaysian competition is similar to the U.S. competition, including an interview, application and recommendations, except that no college nomination is required.

And, said Jayachandran, "the political complexities of a country like Malaysia are an added challenge".

Hijjas said while at Oxford she will pursue a degree in European and Middle Eastern languages, hoping to better prepare herself to teach in Malaysia, a country with significant Islamic influences.

"It would help a great deal to learn about Islamic culture and history", she said.

Over the years Harvard has seen nearly 300 Rhodes Scholars, more than any other college.

The vast majority of Harvard's recipientscompeted in the U.S. competition. The College hasalso done well over the years in the CanadianRhodes competition.

International students apply for Rhodesscholarships awarded by their home countries at arate of about one every other year, and many ofthose applicants are successful, according to PaulA. Bohlman, Harvard's director of fellowships.

Harvard's U.S. Rhodes recipients this year areJonathan J. Finer '99 of Winthrop House, Akash K.Kapur '98, formerly affiliated with Dunster Houseand Navin Narayan '99 of Adams House

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