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Innovating and Inspiring: Meet Faduma Osman

Faduma Osman

Faduma Osman’s road to NC State started about 8,000 miles away.

When the NC State freshman was one year old, her family left the refugee camp in Kenya where she was born and boarded a plane bound for Charlotte, N.C. They didn’t know anyone in the United States — or much of anything about the country — but they had hope that it would be better than the camp or the home in war-torn Somalia they had fled on foot more than a decade before.

Though she doesn’t remember her life before she came to North Carolina, Osman knows that what her parents went through during their harrowing journey out of Somalia and 12 difficult years in the refugee camp has shaped life for her and her eight siblings.

“Since I was little, my parents have told us stories of what they went through to get here because they wanted us to know our roots and appreciate every opportunity we have,” Osman said. “We could have been living in a war zone instead of in a place where we have a chance for things like a college education.”

Osman has seized that chance, earning a place in the College of Engineering’s biomedical engineering program — and a full scholarship through the Pack Promise program, which offers financial support for students with demonstrated need.

Engineering a Better Future

From a young age, Osman has enjoyed learning.

“I always liked going to school and did pretty well, especially in math and science,” she said. 

No woman in Osman’s family had attended college, but after one of her older brothers graduated from UNC-Charlotte, she knew she might be able to become the first.

Faduma Osman with her sister, brother and mother at the copper wolf statues on campus
Faduma Osman (center) on campus with members of her family during her first week on campus.

“Seeing him go through college, graduate with a degree and get a job in his field showed me it was possible for me,” Osman said.

She participated in the Carolina Youth Coalition, a college-prep program that helps prepare high-achieving underresourced students to attend and succeed in college. “The mentors there were amazing in guiding us through the college admissions process since we didn’t know much about it,” she said.

Osman’s interest in biomedical engineering was sparked during a career day in 10th grade. After her grandfather in Somalia contracted a tumor, she had wondered what role she could play in improving medicine in developing countries. She had considered becoming a doctor, but after she learned about careers in biomedical engineering, she realized she was more interested in how she could drive innovation in medical tools.

“My main goal is to make the tools that doctors use better and safer to improve patients’ experiences,” Osman said. “I’m hoping I can travel to Somalia frequently to help improve medical care there.”

Part of the Pack

Though she applied to many colleges, she knew all along which one was her favorite.

“NC State always stood out to me because I loved the campus when I came to visit,” Osman said. “And the College of Engineering seemed ideal because they offer a lot of opportunities to help you be successful. I feel like they really care about my future after I leave here.”

While receiving her first college acceptance was an exciting moment, she was holding out for her dream school. She found out that NC State’s admissions decisions had been released one day when she was working at her part-time job at Chick-Fil-A.

“I was scared to check because I was afraid I would start crying if I didn’t get in,” Osman said. “When I saw I was accepted, I freaked out and told everyone. I knew this was where I wanted to be.”

And if she had any doubts, the Pack Promise scholarship sealed the deal.

“It was going to be hard for me to pay for college without working a lot,” she said. “I’m so thankful for this scholarship because it allows me to be laser-focused on school and my college experience.”

In her first days at NC State, Osman has already started making the most of her new home, finding favorite spots on campus, enjoying Welcome Week events and sharing meals with new friends from her residence hall.

Five students, including Faduma Osman at NC State's RecFest event
Faduma Osman (left) enjoys RecFest on August 21 with fellow first-year students.

“It’s been great to see how this big campus can still feel very homey,” she said.

Though she misses her family, she’s been bringing her younger siblings along on her adventure, sending them updates on her life around campus as she works out in the gym or eats in the dining hall. She hopes that seeing what college life is like will inspire them to reach for that goal, just like her parents’ and older brothers’ work ethics inspired her. One of her younger brothers already wants to pursue engineering, too.

“It means a lot to me to know that I’m in a place in my life where they can look up to me,” Osman said. “There’s no way my parents could have gone through what they went through for me not to do the best I could to succeed. And my brothers and sister can see what their future can be like if they work hard too.”

This post was originally published in NC State News.

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