Youssouf was born in the Republic of Congo but his family fled to the US after a civil war devastated the country. Spending a little more than a year in the Ivory Coast, Youssouf left Africa for good and moved across the ocean to Newark, NJ when he was seven years old.
Coming from a French speaking lineage, Youssouf and his siblings were the first generation forced to learn English. Without an immediate need to speak another language, those that he had learned in Africa including French, were mostly lost. In his sophomore year at University High School, Youssouf began re-learning French so that he would be able to communicate with his extended family back in Congo. In addition to his interest in languages, Youssouf was an avid policy debater and researcher.
Youssouf was in the process of applying to Penn when he discovered the Huntsman Program. Intrigued, he met with the Huntsman advisor, Penn recruiters and with a friend from his area who was also applying to the Program. “I wanted to improve my French but I was really attracted to the idea of learning practical business skills that will help create a valuable career,” he says. “The thing that sets you apart from everyone is that you get this very international background, so you really hone your cultural understanding and interpersonal skills. By the end you feel like you can do anything, anywhere in the world.”
It was in his freshman year that Youssouf knew he had made the right decision by coming to Huntsman. Pre-frosh candidates stayed with him in KC3, so he had a chance to speak with them about their college decision process. “I realized that it’s not about choosing one university over another. It’s about choosing one future over another and picking the place where you are going to be happiest,” he says. “Huntsman is a well-respected program at an incredible school and when you graduate you know you are going to be an excellent student with the best credentials.”
A World of Opportunities
Thanks to a Huntsman summer study grant, Youssouf took part in an intensive language program in Tours, France the summer after his freshman year. “Tours was really great because everyone spoke French all of the time,” he says. “It was the perfect climate for improving my French capabilities.”
Youssouf recently came back from his semester abroad in Lyon, which he says was “more of a cultural experience than Tours. We were totally immersed in our community, engaging in local events and traveling around the country. It was an experience in and of itself to have to start living a different lifestyle.” He made a lot of French friends while he was there, so he always had a group of people that he could speak French with. “After a while it became a really comfortable environment. I’m really happy with where my French is now.”
In Wharton, Youssouf has declared a concentration in Operations Management (OPIM) to develop analytical skills that will allow him to enhance businesses and help them find a solid footing in a global marketplace. “I really enjoy the Operations Management courses I’m taking,” he says. “It’s important to know how to do something, but for me, it’s more important to understand the thinking behind the process. That’s what my concentration is all about.”