Malala Yousafzai Admits She Was 'Nervous' to Attend Oxford, But She's Been 'Welcomed as a Friend'
Malala Yousafzai is opening up about life as an Oxford University student after becoming the youngest person to ever win a Nobel Prize
Yousafzai, now 20, met with David Letterman and gave him a personal tour of her new university for his new Netflix show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, premiering Friday. She says it was an “amazing experience” to show the seasoned host the “beautiful gardens” at the school as she opened up to him about her story.
“David Letterman has that magic … I felt really comfortable talking to him and he gives you that friendly environment that you can share your thoughts,” she tells PEOPLE. “You can share your ideas from your heart. That’s how I felt.”
Yousafzai began her undergraduate studies in philosophy politics and economics last October, and revealed the news in a moving Twitter post, writing, “5 years ago, I was shot in an attempt to stop me from speaking out for girls’ education. Today, I attend my first lectures at Oxford.”
“In the beginning, before I joined university, I was really nervous because I was worried about how I would make friends,” she tells PEOPLE. “People knew me already and that was challenging for me to be there as a student and not to be there as a person who’s already known in the media.”
“But once I came, everyone here just welcomed me as a friend and I was just so happy that I am part of Oxford. I am just an Oxford student and I think that’s how they treat me.”
Yousafzai’s name had long been in headlines before she stepped foot on the campus. Along with being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the children’s rights activist released her memoir, I Am Malala, and was the subject of a documentary, He Named Me Malala. In both, she detailed her journey after being shot by a Taliban gunman while she fought for women’s rights and education.
Now, she says being a regular student means more to her than the world will ever know.
“It’s a really good experience learning just like other students. It is an amazing time of my life, because I’m getting to know people of my age a bit more,” Yousafzai says.
“It’s amazing how many young people here are doing incredible and amazing work. Each and every person here has an amazing story and has done amazing things.”
In a 2015 conversation with Emma Watson, Yousafzai admitted that she often felt “really scared” when speaking in school. But she says that’s not the case at Oxford.
“In university, I think they just allow you to be yourself; to explore and engage in things that you want and that you feel comfortable with,” Yousafzai tells PEOPLE. “That would mean, at Oxford, just sharing about what I do and the work that I’m doing for education … I don’t hesitate to share that. I feel more comfortable at Oxford.”
Even with all of her accomplishments and strides — including her Malala Fund —Yousafzai says there is still much work to be done to ensure education for girls everywhere.
“The dream of my life is to ensure all girls can get quality and safe education … that’s why we have the Malala Fund, which is working on that. My goal is to empower local leaders and local activists in their work for girls’ education,” she tells PEOPLE.
“We are trying to reach local activists and campaigners for girls education in Pakistan, India, Latin America, in Nigeria. [The work] will continue until we see the last child getting their education and going to a safe school.”
Yousafzai’s appearance on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman will premiere on Friday on Netflix.