Ask Abdullah Alkuraya what his favourite subject is and he would tell you, he has not one, but several. "My favourite subjects are History, Math, Psychology, English, Biology and Arabic," says the International Baccalaureate Diploma student at GEMS Dubai American Academy. "However, history holds a special place in my heart."

The 17-year-old is already a published author with a book on history. He also has two research articles on history and one on abnormal psychology to his credit. The Saudi expat has received several honours for academics, competitions and research and has been accepted to Tamayuz (Excellence) Program, the largest Saudi leadership development program in which just 3 per cent of students are selected through Cognitive Aptitude Testing.

Excerpts from an interview:

What drew you to history?

When I first discovered history, I was reading books and research papers as if they were nonfiction action movies. There was always a protagonist, antagonist, plot, and drama. I would always keep reminding myself that these events truly happened! Knowing history allows me to understand current events from a deeper perspective.

How did you get your book published?

I took the initiative to write the book to make up for the limited opportunities in the field of history. I saw competition [in the fields of] physics, math, and sports but none in history. The book took me a long time to write; however, the toughest part was finding a publisher. I think it had to do with my age. However, one day I received a reply from Motivate Media; they read the manuscript and gave me a chance. Some months later, we signed a contract to publish the book.

What kind of research went into the book?

First thing I did was break down the chapters in my book, and within each chapter I conducted research on primary (firsthand) sources and made a list of evidence. These were studied in detail in a chronological manner to support my secondary sources. Once these options were exhausted, I looked into secondary sources such as articles and images that fit with the narrative of the text. Then I began writing and using my evidence list to support my prompt. To go into greater depth, I found different historian viewpoints that either agreed or disagreed on topics and evaluated their perspectives through a neutral lens. I made sure that this book did not provide an argument but rather an informative background, balancing opposing perspectives. I truly enjoyed all aspects of research.

What tips can you offer students aspiring to pursue research?

Start early, be more focused with a passion that truly fits your mindset and personality. Go to respective teachers for opportunities; they will always be happy to help and support academic endeavours. My history teacher, Mrs Smith, became my mentor in writing my book.

The most important aspect of any research is integrity; the work should be original in its own right and something you can be proud of.

The dopamine rush from finishing research makes you want to do more and more, which occurred to me when I began writing journal articles. So beware, once you start, you can not stop!

What subjects do you plan to pursue in college, and why?

In line with my passion, my subjects in college will mostly be related to History. However, I am also excited to further my knowledge in other areas such as calculus and biology. The goal is to keep learning, having an open mind, and be willing to accept that our lives are dynamic, hence be receptive to change.

I want to curate museums and support their expansion to spread the Middle East’s rich history to the rest of the world. I also wish to create a rigorous high school program for public schools that will give them equal standing with internationally competitive universities.

Visit haleeducation.com to learn more.

Anand Raj OK

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