Sarah Al-Moosa is not only a Columbia Law School student but Oman's first woman diplomat to be posted abroad—to the Sultanate of Oman's Permanent Mission to the United Nations. In her first year at law school, she tried to keep the fact under wraps. "But I kept showing up in a suit, and there would be a lot of questions," she says.
As the daughter of a government official—her father is Oman's minister of health and the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Oman—Ms. Al-Moosa visited the United Nations at the age of 10, and it had a lasting impact. "I was good with languages and had an interest in differing cultures, so knew I would end up doing something in the international field," she says.
After graduating from Georgetown University in 1998, Ms. Al-Moosa earned a Masters degree in Public Policy and Administration at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs in 2002, while at her diplomatic post in New York. More Omani women now come to study in the United States, she says, and in general they do not experience issues of inequality. "Oman has the perfect blend of modernizing while retaining cultural values," she says.
Ms. Al-Moosa launched her diplomatic career in 1998 when she was 21—younger than her peers by five to 10 years. She represents her government in the Third Committee of the U.N. General Assembly, which deals with social, cultural, and human rights issues. She also focuses on maritime issues. "It was challenging at first," she says. "You have to negotiate with more than 190 countries, but having the assistance of my colleagues in the Omani delegation, I managed to learn the ropes."
Ms. Al-Moosa's committee looks at larger cultural issues such as women and children's rights, and discusses what countries have achieved, in an effort to reach international consensus. The committee was involved, for example, in identifying 12 critical goals for the state of the world's children, for UNICEF to implement during the past decade.
The intricacies of diplomacy led Ms. Al-Moosa to enroll in law school. By way of example, she explains that she once attended a meeting in Jamaica addressing maritime issues. The issue at stake was the drafting of a mining code to take advantage of the resources available on the seabed. "I was at a disadvantage because all of my colleagues were lawyers," she says. "You really need to understand the subtleties behind the wording."
Although Ms. Al-Moosa takes great pride in contributing to broadening women's participation in diplomacy, she acknowledges that it has been very difficult to combine law school with a 30-hour workweek at the U.N. "It's like leading two different lives," she says. "I use the drive from the U.N. to school to change my mental mode from work to school."
While at the Law School, Ms. Al-Moosa has taking several courses to advance her diplomatic skills, such as International Trade Law and Corporate Law. She is also a staff member and survey author on the Columbia Business Law Review. With what little spare time she has, she is trying to make the most of New York. "I love New York," she says, "from the U.N. to Broadway."
Upon graduation, Ms. Al-Moosa plans to go into private practice in New York.