20 in Their 20s: Sama Habib

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A Foreign Service officer prepares for her first diplomatic post

Sama Habib got her first lesson in diplomacy as a preschooler, not long after she and her family immigrated to the U.S. from Egypt.

“I was calling everyone to come and play, and all the kids looked at me like I was an alien,” recalls Habib, who was 4 when her family settled in Monroe, New York. “‘It’s not that they don’t like you,’ the teacher told me. ‘It’s just that they don’t speak Arabic.’ That’s when I learned that if I want people to play on the jungle gym with me, I have to learn to speak their language.”

This spring, Habib has been studying Spanish and U.S. immigration law at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia, as she prepares to set off in August on her first diplomatic post—as a consular officer in Monterrey, Mexico.

It’s a career path she first glimpsed in 2010, right after high school, when she was selected for a State Department program that fosters transatlantic understanding. At Fordham, she majored in business and earned spots at a U.N. conference in Scotland and a seminar in Moldova on peace building in Eastern Europe.

She drew on her background to add depth to class discussions about the Egyptian uprising of January 2011, taking “an even-handed and fair approach to the region,” says Marcus Holmes, Ph.D., who taught international relations at Fordham.

After graduating in 2014, she earned fellowships that allowed her to work at the U.S. Embassy in London, earn a master’s degree in international affairs at Columbia University, and intern at the State Department and at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.

Now she’s “primed and prepped,” she says, to pursue a diplomatic career made possible by her family’s emigration.

“For me to be doing what I’m doing now, not only as a woman but as a Coptic Christian woman, that just wouldn’t exist in Egypt,” she says. “The American Dream is why I’m here, and it’s why the Foreign Service speaks to me.”

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