Yasmeen Munasser: Follow Your Curiosity and Passion

Yasmeen is a driven and passionate New Yorker, hijabi, and computer science enthusiast. She never lets anything stop her from what she loves, and is forwarding the same message to young computer science enthusiasts too. 

So I was born in Chicago and moved to Queens when I was five years old and had been raised in New York ever since. I am from Yemen, I am a first-generation college student, I am currently majoring in Computer Science and double minoring in Business and Math. My dad decided to move here to the States when he was in his early 20s, he wanted to have more opportunities here and to start a life here, that is kind of a typical story of many immigrants from back home who decide to come to the States to have more of an opportunity. My mother was raised here and they ended up meeting, and that’s kind of their story. Again, I lived in Chicago early in my childhood and then moved to Queens and have been raised here ever since so I absolutely love Queens and its diversity. We have the best food, and I am just a proud New Yorker, and I just absolutely love being here. 

 

I started wearing the hijab when I was sixteen years old, so kind of a little later than most girls wore around me, in my family and friends. I really wanted to wear it when I understood what it meant, and I was fully ready. 

 

In middle school, I was really into Math at the time, I was a nerd, I really loved my Seventh Grade Math class, I would sit in the front row, it was a great time, I was very social, and had a lot of great friends. In high school, however, I transitioned, and was actually home-schooled, my mother suggested that for me, and she really wanted me to just be close to her. Growing up, especially during high school, starting from their, my mother just really wanted to shelter me, so at that time, home-schooling was the only option. I did like it for some time in the beginning, however, I eventually did not like it, and I really wanted to get back into being in school, meeting new friends, or continuing to hang out with some of my old friends, but eventually those friendships died out, because when your home-schooled, and you have your own friends, an actual school, with kind of different schedules, you kind of lose conversations in continuing that friendship, so, eventually a lot of those friendships died out. 

 

So again, back to wearing the hijab, I decided to wear it when I was sixteen years old, by choice, it is now nearly nine years later, it is part of my identity, I absolutely feel confident within myself, I love what it represents. Just something that I want to be clear, the hijab has never restricted me as far as pursuing my dreams or passions. 

 

There are moments where you feel defeated, or you are not receiving as much support as you would like, but, I always remind myself that I am very passionate about this field, and who says that this particular field belongs to only one gender, a male can pursue any field or industry that they want, as well as females, so there isn’t one particular industry for just one gender. So, again, I was very curious, very passionate, I just didn’t allow myself to give up, I continued to just  network with professors, I continued to make more friends, I just continued to be curious and persistent. Especially what I love about this field as well, where I come from, and overall for women, I see that in Computer Science and Tech, there are so many opportunities, and the salaries for all of these jobs are great. I feel as though if a woman is passionate in tech or computer science, she should very well pursue it, and for myself, not only was I passionate, not only was I curious, but I loved the opportunities and the job prospects that the field offers, and I thought “Why not?” So, yes, it wasn’t always easy, but again I reminded myself of my purpose, and why I am doing what I am doing, and I continue pushing forward. 

 

I recently have been a facilitator for Girls Who Code in the last year or so, I absolutely love this, I volunteer doing this on the weekends, mentoring middle school and high school girls who are wanting to expand on their interests in Computer Science, and we have different discussions and intro workshops on the frontend languages such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript, as well as Python. That has been a great experience to have these conversations with these young girls, and to kind of share with them my own experiences. 

 

If I could go back in time, what I would tell the young Yasmeen, is to be kinder to yourself. When I was younger, I was very critical of myself and hard on myself. So I think every individual should just be kinder to themselves, and to believe in themselves more. 

 

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