A native Kenyan with a global curiosity
Born and raised in Kenya, Halima is a proud African with extremely global interests. Since her mother is a native Kenyan and her father stems from Yemen, Halima grew up speaking both English and Swahili at home, while being regularly exposed to Arabic language and culture. “Since my mom converted from Catholicism to Islam, I always learned to appreciate diverse perspectives, which probably led to my early curiosity for other cultures.” During high school, Halima discovered her passion for development through her school’s social impact club, whose initiatives ranged from food drives for local orphanages to fundraisers for low-income children’s school fees. “I felt I was doing something truly worthwhile. My efforts were actually improving the welfare of my fellow Kenyans.”
After graduating top of her class, Halima was admitted to the Equity Group Foundation’s prestigious Leaders Program (ELP), through which she not only completed an internship at a large bank, but also met several program alumni who had studied in the United States. “I had never really considered studying abroad until I met Justin Wanyeki (Huntsman Class of 2018), who was deeply passionate about the Huntsman community. Hearing about his wonderful experience immediately drew me to the program.” Halima was also interested in Huntsman because she was keen on studying business. “Both my parents are entrepreneurs. Since our family owns an animal feed shop, I grew up surrounded by business. I was a shop attendant by age 7, and was depositing the shop’s money in the bank by the time I finished grade school.” Attending Penn allowed Halima to acquire the most rigorous business skills, as well as explore the international perspectives that intrigued her.
Life at Penn
Halima’s time at Penn has been a life-changing experience. “I had never left Kenya, so I sometimes still cannot even believe I am here. Walking down Locust Walk is a surreal experience.” Halima has especially enjoyed bonding with the extremely diverse Huntsman community. “Even if I have not been able to travel the globe, I feel I have gotten to know the world through my peers. It is not every day that one has an international community that is so diverse, yet so close-knit.” Halima hopes to learn from her peers’ diverse experiences and ultimately apply these perspectives to foster development in Kenya.
This summer, Halima is looking forward to many travel opportunities. She will work with Dr. Sara Byala on a research project studying the role of Coca Cola in Africa. “Coke has actually had enormous social impact for Africans. Whether it be the company’s initiatives to empower women or provide access to clean water, there are many interesting projects to be studied across the continent.” Halima will also spend eight weeks studying Arabic in Beirut, through which she hopes to explore the Middle East for the first time, and especially understand the differences between Lebanese and Yemeni culture.
After graduation, Halima hopes to work in the private sector for few years and gain as much business experience as possible. In the long run, she hopes to return to Kenya, transition to the public sector, and use her skills to support her country. “I am very passionate about education and healthcare in Kenya, and believe the government is in desperate need of strong talent. By working for the Kenyan government, I hope to use all I learn here at Penn to meaningfully improve the lives of my fellow Africans.”