By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart

Hiba Khan is in her SUNY Broome era. Whether she’s doing rounds on the 3rd floor of the Student Village as the Resident Assistant, leading a Student Assembly meeting as the Vice President of Student Affairs, or troubleshooting technical issues as an IT student assistant, Hiba isn’t just living her best life as a SUNY Broome student, she is devoting her time to ensure that her classmates are too.

Khan, an international Computer Science: A.S. student, was born in Karachi, Pakistan. When Khan was six, her father landed his dream job as a technical engineer for the Masjid an-Nabawī (Mosque of the Prophet). A few months after her father settled in Saudi Arabia, Hiba, her mother, and her two siblings left Karachi to join him in Medina. Hiba loved growing up in Saudi Arabia and spent her youth hanging out with friends and embracing the country’s vibrant culture. 

When she wasn’t in school, Hiba spent most of her time at the Masjid an-Nabawī as a medical volunteer through the Saudi Red Crescent Society, the Saudi version of the Red Cross. Being a first aid volunteer within the Mosque of the Prophet allowed Hiba to connect with her father, an engineer in the mosque, her mother, a general practitioner, and her faith. 

“Working in the Mosque nourished my soul. It was such a calming environment, and I felt like I was really able to serve others in my role as a first aid volunteer,” Khan said. “I also met one of my closest friends, Hajar, through volunteering, and her guidance is a large part of why I am a Computer Science: A.S. student at SUNY Broome today!” 

As with every Gen Z’s coming-of-age story, the COVID-19 global pandemic altered every aspect of Hiba’s life. The Masjid an-Nabawī closed and her mother rushed to the frontlines in Saudi Arabia. Hiba left her international school and opted to study privately at home in Medina, returning to Pakistan to sit for her exams and spend time with her dad, who had returned to Pakistan a few years earlier for a new position.  Like so many during the pandemic, Hiba channeled her social isolation and boredom into mastering a new hobby – coding. Thanks to online tutorials, Khan spent her evenings coding Python in between calling friends and playing video games. It was during one of those post-coding phone calls that her fellow first aid volunteer, Hajar, an MIT grad, encouraged Hiba to seriously consider a career as a programmer or software engineer. 

Photo Credit: Matt Ebbers

When the world started to re-open, Hiba began to focus her attention on preparing for college. The plan was always for Hiba to study internationally. At the time, Hiba’s older sister had just finished earning her associate degree at Mohawk Valley Community College, and their parents were keen to have Hiba duplicate her sister’s SUNY community college experience. 

“My parents gave me three stipulations,” Khan explained. “I had to study in New York State, be close to my sister who had transferred to Ithaca College, and be close to my Uncle in New Jersey. I looked at a map and settled on Binghamton, NY.”

While friends initially encouraged Hiba to apply to Binghamton University, she worried that transitioning from private high school home study to the regiment of traditional learning at a large university would be too daunting. Instead, Khan connected with Susan Wellington and Maria Basualdo from SUNY Broome’s Office of International Student Services, and the rest is history. 

How Hiba balances her rigorous academic workload with her three campus jobs and her several campus life leadership positions is baffling to most who know and love her. But for Hiba, being an RA, an Admissions Ambassador, an IT Assistant, President of the Muslim Student Association, Chair of the Activities Council, VP of Student Affairs of the Student Assembly, and a member of the International Students Organization, all contribute to her belief that the best way to learn and to thrive is by throwing yourself into each experience wholeheartedly. 

“My parents have sacrificed so much to give me and to give my siblings such incredible opportunities,” Khan said. “With respect to those sacrifices, I want to make the most of my time at SUNY Broome and, for me, making the most of my time means getting involved, exploring new opportunities, collaborating to make positive changes, and supporting my classmates’ success.”

Do you enjoy tinkering with coding in your spare time like Hiba? Consider expanding your hobby into a  Computer Science: A.S. degree at SUNY Broome!

Photo Credit: Matt Ebbers

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