From Hargeisa to Canada – meet the first ever student Pharo Foundation sent to study abroad

2021 Huda Osman from Hargeisa, Somaliland, graduated from Pharo Sheikh Secondary School. Huda is now studying sustainable design engineering at the University of Prince Edward Island, in Canada.

In recent years Pharo Foundation has provided university scholarships to many of our most talented students and Huda was the first ever student the foundation sent to study abroad. We are so proud to see Huda studying in Canada and so we caught up with her to learn all about her journey through Pharo Sheikh Secondary School to where she is now…

Huda has now been studying sustainable design engineering in Canada for nine months but to see how she has gotten to where she is, we must go all the way back to where she grew up in Hargeisa – over 12,000km away!

Huda is part of a close-knit family and grew up with six siblings. Her parents are both highly educated and so were always fully supportive of Huda’s academic goals and her ambition to study abroad. Indeed, in his youth her father travelled abroad to complete his studies and this acted as an inspiration to Huda’s own travels now. Huda said of her parents that “seeing their success and passion for learning inspired me to follow in their footsteps”.

Aged 14 Huda took a big step in her education journey when she joined Pharo Sheikh Secondary School. Even at this early age Huda was committed to her education and went onto become one of the school’s most exceptional students. Speaking about joining Pharo Sheikh, Huda said: “Moving to Pharo was the first time I had lived away from home and although upon joining the school I was slightly daunted at the prospect of boarding with a group of strangers, I quickly made friends and I now call them all sisters. Living on campus allowed me to immerse myself in the academic and social aspects of school life and taught me how to adapt to a new environment – as I have now had to do in Canada. I am so grateful for the opportunities I had at the Sheikh boarding school.”

Girls dormsthe Sheikh boarding school

Graduating from Pharo Sheikh aged 18, Huda then took a gap year in which she travelled, began researching universities abroad and sending out applications, as well as applying for Visas. Unbeknownst to Huda and her family, while she had been taking her gap year, Pharo Foundation was putting into place its scholarship scheme for students to study abroad. It then came as a very pleasant surprise to Huda and her family when the Pharo team got in touch and offered to help fund Huda’s studies abroad.

Huda had already done a lot of the groundwork in her applications and had done amazingly to receive an acceptance letter from the prestigious University of Michigan. However, the costs involved in the US university system were too high for either her family or Pharo Foundation to fund. Pharo Foundation then began to help Huda look for a more affordable university, which a Pharo Foundation scholarship could accommodate. Huda and the foundation decided upon the University of Prince Edward Island, where both parties agreed the level of education would still be exceptional whilst lessening the financial burden.

Joining the university in September 2022, Huda had a lot to get used to quickly. Indeed, Huda herself described Somaliland and Canada as “like two different worlds”. The weather for one was a big change, with Somaliland not normally dipping much below 15°C in winter, whereas in Charlottetown, Canada winters can go lower than -10°C. However, well prepared to adapt to change from her time at Pharo Sheikh, Huda quickly got used to her new surroundings and has made plenty of new friends, is enjoying the new culture and is progressing well with her studies.

Huda Osman at the University of Prince Edward Island

Huda is already looking to the future and thinking about her goals after university. Rather than staying abroad once her degree is complete, Huda is looking to return to Somaliland and put the skills she has learned into action and give back to the society she grew up in. This is something Pharo Foundation is delighted to see, and we hope many more of our scholarship students bring back what they learn abroad to their home countries in Africa.

Indeed, Huda is paving the way in more ways than one. By being such a successful student at a prestigious Western university she is playing her part in showing just how valuable the contribution of African students to an international campus can be. We hope that her example, along with that of our other scholarship students, will mean more prestigious universities accept African students and offer them fully-funded academic scholarships in the future.

Asked whether she had a message for other African students thinking of studying abroad, Huda had this to say: “The distance from my family and the change of culture were certainly challenges but after just one semester I already feel like I am used to it here and I am loving my time at university. I’d definitely recommend that other students study abroad as while it is a challenge to get here, it is so rewarding. Go for it and dream big!”

Finally, Huda wanted to extend a thanks to everyone at Pharo, saying “I am so grateful for the opportunity Pharo has provided me. A special thanks to my English and Science teachers at Sheikh who in my last year at school taught some highly advanced classes and prepared me exceptionally well for what I am studying now. In particular, I would like to thank Muna Ahmed Jama, Maxamed Maxamuud Axmed and Hodan Abdillahi Muse for their amazing support.”

We would add that Huda could in turn become a role model for girls at Sheikh, as a trailblazing Somalilander woman in science/engineering. Everyone at Pharo is looking forward to seeing just how far Huda can go and we are so proud of her hard work to date. Watch this space for updates as Huda and our other scholarship students progress in their studies!