Studying abroad in Paris, France was not merely an exhilarating experience for Albright College graduate Diza Hasanaj ’22, who traveled there for a three-week program during the winter break of her senior year. Rather, it became an opportunity to make connections, learn about a new culture, and gain understanding of the world beyond the classroom.
A New Jersey native, Hasanaj is a first-generation student whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Kosovo to escape war in their home country. Hasanaj learned Albanian as her first language before learning English through television and school. She also began studying French in middle school to communicate with other relatives who immigrated to Switzerland. Thus, by the time Hasanaj came to Albright, she was already trilingual.
“I definitely had multicultural experience just from living in the USA, but living with the Albanian culture … there’s kind of that dual aspect. And then learning the French culture, I got to see it in the flesh abroad,” said Hasanaj.
Experiencing so many cultures and lifestyles and seeing the world through diverse lenses has taught Hasanaj flexibility, a skill that she has been able to apply to her academic career. For example, although she began as a biology major with a minor in French, Hasanaj quickly realized that biology would not be a field in which she could thrive.
“I hated it — I really struggled. I dreaded even looking at the textbook, let alone trying to open it up and read it.”
However, rather than pushing her to slog through the classes, Hasanaj’s academic advisor, professor Erin Ventresca, Ph.D., encouraged her to seek out a career path that truly made her heart “sing.” With Ventresca’s attentive guidance, Hasanaj soon realized that the field of finance sparked her passion.
After a couple of classes, Hasanaj fell in love with finance and eventually switched to a co-major in business administration: finance and French. With her bachelor’s degree completed, she will next begin a one-year graduate finance program at Villanova University in the fall. Once she earns her master’s degree, she is interested in working at a finance company based in France, such as Deloitte.
“Albright has helped me to achieve my goals, even when I didn’t know what my goals were,” said Hasanaj. “I’m very grateful for everything that Albright has given me and my family and all the opportunities that I’ve had.”
The educational experience at Albright has been especially impactful for Hasanaj in light of her family’s experiences. “My parents barely finished high school. My [family] grew up in Kosovo — they didn’t know how to read, they didn’t know how to write. And I’m here, about to go get my master’s in finance.”
Working hard and making her family proud have been the two primary motivators for Hasanaj. So, throughout her time at Albright, Hasanaj has eagerly sought out opportunities to involve herself on campus and become a prominent leader and member of the student body.
In addition to playing soccer, for which she served as a team captain, Hasanaj was also elected as the vice president of the class of 2022. Due to her scholarly excellence, Hasanaj was inducted into both the business and French honors societies, and in her junior year, she joined the ADPi sorority, for which she served as a Pan-Hellenic treasurer. Finally, as a representative of the class of 2022, Hasanaj directed the turning of the tassel at Albright’s 2022 commencement ceremony and graduated with honors.
Although she has contributed immensely to Albright’s campus with her diverse cultural background and her leadership skills, Hasanaj has equally grown from the support she received not only from faculty but also from fellow students, organizations and resources like the college’s Experiential Learning and Career Development Center, which made her study abroad to Paris possible. Thus, Hasanaj sees herself as part of a larger framework of people who are dedicated to creating a thriving environment for future Albrightians like herself.
“The sense of community at Albright is really strong, and that is something that I admire about Albright and that I know will continue with everyone that goes through Albright — they’ll always want to give back.”