Afnaan was born in Texas with Egyptian heritage, and lived in Egypt from the ages of five to nine. Her family moved back to the US to settle in the Northeast, and she has called Central Jersey home ever since. After a year in public school, she began middle school at Noor-Ul-Iman, an Islamic school, and graduated in its 7th class. With its small size, she found a valuable sense of community and thus took time to give back to the younger students, often tutoring elementary, middle, and high school students in various subjects and acting as a mentor to them.
Growing up in the post 9/11 world, Afnaan felt the need to give American Muslim youth a platform to discuss issues and gain a voice. In the fall of her senior year, an idea for a Muslim youth newspaper finally came to fruition, and she joined the original staff, taking the position of section head of the featured section (which has a different theme per issue), one that she still holds. She also volunteered often at the Good Tree Farm of New Egypt, an organic farm that promotes local food sustainability and works off of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model.
Having attended a religious school for middle and high school, Afnaan sought to find a way to combine her interests in international issues, social impact, and business. She stumbled across the Huntsman Program while searching for majors in the College of Arts & Sciences, and was surprised at how well it fit her aspirations.
Now having nearly finished her second year at Penn, she is happier than ever, having made great friends and found a wonderful community, both inside and outside of Huntsman. “One of the best aspects of being in Huntsman is having friends from all over the world and from various backgrounds. Each Huntsman student is unique, and we learn so much from each other on a daily basis. I’ve never had more diverse friends, and they have definitely added a special touch to my Penn experience.”
Coming from an Arab background but not having her desired level of proficiency, Afnaan chose to study Arabic in more depth through Huntsman and thus study the Middle East as well. One can say that the timing of the Arab Spring was a very good learning experience for her and others interested in the region, for there almost is no better time to study the region- its culture, language, and politics.
Outside the Classroom
Afnaan is currently Vice President of Penn Collaborating in International Learning (PennCIL) with another Huntsman classmate. The group, which was founded in February 2011, works with The School Fund, a non-profit established by Penn and Brown grads ’11 that provides a platform for transparency in donations to students in need of funding for their secondary educations. When TSF began in 2009, it funded just one boy in Tanzania. Two and a half years later the non-profit is now operating in over 13 countries. Afnaan is also part of the Wharton Undergraduate Consulting Club’s External Affairs committee and Penn Model Congress, and works at the Wharton Magazine.
During her sophomore spring semester, Afnaan was a part of the Asian Pacific American Leadership Initiative (APALI) run by the Pan Asian American Community House (PAACH). APALI and taking a course about race and ethnic relations during her sophomore fall semester led to her increased interest in Asian American Studies, in which she hopes to minor as well.