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Fahima Osman
Fahima Osman

For Somalia refugee and speech and hearing sciences student Fahima Osman, the chance to attend Portland State University meant more than earning a college degree, it meant an opportunity to inspire and give back to her family and community.

Fahima is the second oldest of 11 children. After fleeing Somalia’s civil war while she was young, Fahima and her family lived in Kenya, before moving to the United States and settling in Oregon.

After graduating high school, Fahima enrolled in college but struggled to fit in and find the support and mentoring she sought, causing a cycle of starting classes and then dropping out.  With help from the Bridges to Baccalaureate program at Portland Community College, Fahima earned her associates degree and transferred to Portland State.

“I was inspired by the atmosphere at PSU. It’s unique here. I know other students at PSU who’ve had the same struggles. But we are all here to get an education and make something of ourselves.”

Fahima says PSU has enabled her to pursue her education, while staying close to family and continuing to work as a Somalia interpreter. Fahima also makes time to give back to her community. She is on the PTA at her younger siblings' elementary school, participates in PSU’s Muslim Student Association, and volunteers with the Portland group Muslimah United.

Today, Fahima has her sights set on finishing her degree and applying to a graduate program. Her dream is to return to Somalia and open a speech and hearing clinic.

When asked what motivates her, Fahima says, “I don’t want to work for the money. I want to get up every day and love what I do.”