Nelda Kacyem

Class Year: 

Hometown: Yaoundé, Cameroon


American School of Yaoundé


I have always been surrounded by diversity, and the diversity present in the Huntsman community made it easier for me to transition into the University of Pennsylvania.

Student Background

Nelda grew up in Cameroon, where she attended an American high school with a very diverse student body, made up of people from 40 different countries. She was exposed to diverse cultures and also to international politics, through her participation in Model UN during high school. She also looked up to her father, who holds an MBA from an American university and eventually started his own business. One day, Nelda typed "business and international studies" into a search engine and discovered the Huntsman Program. She says that she was "thrilled" to find a Program that would allow her to combine her two main interests.

Growing up, Nelda and her siblings were always encouraged to do community service. Throughout high school, she worked with orphanages to help educate children about hygiene and health in Yaoundé. Nelda says, "My ultimate goal would be to give back to the community that gave so much to me." Following her father's example, she hopes to earn her degree here in the United States and then eventually return to Cameroon to do what she can to help others. She expects that she will work in banking for a few years before returning, so that she will develop the resources and skills she needs to effectively have an impact in her home country.

The Huntsman Experience

Nelda's leaning towards a Finance concentration in Wharton because she says the subject has interested her more than other parts of the core. According to Nelda, Finance has more real-world application than some other classes. "Finance actually helped me understand…" she says, "I could pick up the Wall Street Journal and say ‘Hey, I get what this means!'" Nelda enjoys the quantitative aspects of Finance as well. In fact, she is now working towards a minor in Mathematics.

In the College of Arts & Sciences, Nelda's favorite classes have been her language classes. As a native French speaker, Nelda was able to immediately start taking the most advanced classes on topics such as the European Union or French History. Before coming to Penn, Nelda says that she didn't even realize she could take classes like that in a language department. "I knew I wouldn't be taking grammar classes, but I didn't expect to be able to take classes that were so broad. They were all really interesting." She's also been able to help many of her Huntsman classmates with homework and essays for their own French classes. In fact, one of her favorite things about the Program has been the sense of community that grew during freshman year living together. "We got to help each other out a lot, especially when it came to target languages."

While learning about different cultures, Nelda has also been able to stay in touch with her own cultural heritage. She is Vice President of Penn African Performing Arts, a student organization that performs traditional African music, dance and storytelling. Nelda says that the group helped her a lot with the culture shock when she first arrived on campus. Now, as Vice President of the club, she helps make key decisions for the group and shares her passion with local high school students. At the end of the year, the club will perform alongside Nelda's students in a show at West Catholic High School. She also continues her family's tradition of community service as a tutor in elementary and middle schools in West Philadelphia through Penn's Community School Student Partnerships.