Sama Kubba is a remarkable young woman who is currently pursuing a dual Bachelors and Masters degree in Middle Eastern and East Asian Studies at Harvard University. This is no small feat and speaks to her exceptional talent and ambition. Set to graduate in 2024, Sama is a driven individual who has overcome incredible adversity to get where she is today. As a refugee from Iraq, her journey has been an inspiring one that serves to highlight just how powerful the human spirit can be. Along the way, Sama has made history as the first student diplomat from the United States to be sent to Taiwan, paving the way for future generations to follow in her footsteps. Thanks to the U.S. Foreign Service Internship Program, Sama has been given an invaluable opportunity to expand her knowledge on international relations and work with the U.S. Department of State.
Sama Kubba is the Co-Founder of Accepted Admissions, a company that focuses on providing students with personalized guidance and support throughout every stage of the admission process. With a team of experts, Sama is dedicated to helping students achieve their goals of gaining acceptance to prestigious universities across the country. By offering individualized assistance, Sama and her team significantly increase the chances of success for students applying to Ivy League schools and other highly ranked universities. But, her passion for innovation and desire to promote healthy living do not stop at admissions consulting. As a driven member of the Harvard Innovation Student Labs, Sama is committed to developing Train&Win, an app that will make weight loss and fitness programs more affordable and accessible. The app structures a competitive marketplace of trainers and offers cash rewards for those who hit their fitness milestones. With Sama’s devotion to helping students and commitment to transforming the fitness industry, the future looks bright.
What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?
A typical day for a Harvard student starts off with classes, then lunch, hanging out with friends, dinner and then evening activities held by clubs, Harvard itself or Grinding with other people on homework in the dining halls, libraries or in your dorm rooms.
Everyone’s schedule looks differently but the key to having a productive Harvard experience is really about prioritizing events. If you make sure that you’re prioritizing the things that matter the most to you, then you can make sure that you’ll actually have the time for things that you care about. I prioritize my time by making sure that everything I do hits two key criteria: 1) Go to events that directly align with your professional, career or intellectual goals and 2) Go to events that you genuinely think are going to be fun with your friends. A lot of times people at Harvard get really scared about missing out on certain activities, but the truth is some things really just aren’t aligned with what we’re actually interested in or would really have fun at. so, I find it really important to stay true to yourself and know yourself and actually understand what you enjoy so that you can prioritize the things that you actually want to go to.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Talk it out with people who are smarter than you. That has been the biggest benefit of Harvard in my opinion, there is always someone smarter than me who I can talk to about any subject area in the world. Whether it is another student or a professor, you can always talk out your ideas and find someone who can find flaws and you’re thinking to make it better or validate your ideas.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I really appreciate how vocal Gen-Z is about boundaries and ensuring that their rights are respected as individuals. I come from a low income background and I’m a refugee in the U.S., so ensuring that my rights as a minority woman are always protected are really critical. I think it is so critical that, as a society, we place a big emphasis on accepting everyone for who they are and empowering marginalized communities. Gen-Z’s Activism, vocalness and ability to know their worth is really impressive and gives me hope that we will move into a brighter future where individuals feel supported in all environments such as their workplaces and their schools.
What is one habit that helps you be productive?
Every morning that I have trouble getting up, I take a warm shower. Very often, I am staying up late to work on homework or for jobs and I end up not getting more than a couple hours of sleep. This makes getting up very difficult, so I rely on a nice warm shower when I get up to make waking up incentivizing and to also have a great start to the day. It is also just so emotionally healing to wake up to a nice warm shower.
What advice would you give your younger self?
That it’s okay to call your parents for help. Growing up, I saw how being Iraqi refugees in the US took a huge toll on my parents. It was a huge culture shock and it was very draining on them. So, I always tried to do everything myself. I always wanted to make my parents proud and to make them feel like coming to the US was a good decision. but, as I get older I’ve realized that it’s okay to not have all the answers on your own and it’s okay to need help. Parents are really wise because they’ve been through a lot in their lifetime and they are people are not just to impress but to rely on.
Tell us something you believe that almost nobody agrees with you on?
My family and I have an ongoing disagreement with all of America about Donuts being breakfast foods. My family fundamentally believes that Donuts are desserts. I love donuts, don’t get me wrong, nothing against the beautiful Krispy Kreme donuts. but, this cannot reasonably be a breakfast food. tTis is a dessert!
What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?
Go thrift your furniture! Growing up my family didn’t have that much money, so we always relied on thrift stores, craigslist and Thrift apps like OfferUp to find affordable furniture. As long as you are doing thorough quality control checks to ensure that the furniture you are getting is in good condition, then thrifting your furniture is a really money efficient way of furnishing your house!
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?
I go look at myself in the mirror and say to myself “You got this.” It is important to believe in yourself even when everyone around you does not. Only you know your potential and only you can control your next steps. If you believe in your capability, then nothing else matters.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?
I had a really good partner. Desiree Rickett is the best friend and business partner I could ask for. I’ve always heard other entrepreneurs say the same thing and I stand by this as well: you need to go into business with the right people. I’m on the younger side compared to others in business, but having the right partner has made a world’s difference. It’s hard to do it all on your own, but it’s even harder with the wrong partner.
What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?
Chain of command is really important in the US Department of State and foreign policy. I am still figuring that out as an intern. This summer, I sent some emails around the department and ended up causing a bit of a ruckus with one foreign service officer. My old bosses, who I reconnected with after the incident, explained to me that since the state department operates off of hierarchy, structure and formalities, it’s really important to communicate with superiors or at least people more senior than you about anything that you plan to do. This is so that they can always guide you in the right direction and make sure that all proper procedures and protocols are followed. Moving forward I learned that mentors are really important in the state department and to always communicate with your superiors before doing anything especially when you’re still figuring things out and how everything works as an intern.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Social media advertising has always been important to any company’s modern day strategy. But, my businesses are specifically looking into working with micro influencers to see if we can work with local pockets of communities instead of wide-ranging marketing. More to come on that!
What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Calendly is a lifesaver. It has never been easier to schedule meetings with others or have others schedule meetings with you. It really saves me so much time when I’m scheduling meetings either with clients or with other individuals that I work with by automating the process.
Do you have a favorite book or podcast you’ve gotten a ton of value from and why?
One of my favorite podcasts till this day is the intelligence by The Economist. I’ve learned a lot because it has a very well-rounded perspective on world affairs by ensuring that it covers not just political events, but also cultural and academic achievements that our society has made.
What’s a movie or series you recently enjoyed and why?
I’m currently obsessed with the Diplomat– this is probably not surprising given how much I love foreign policy. I really like the show because it’s really interesting and gives you great insights into the life of Foreign Service Officer. A lot of people don’t know what the lives of ambassadors look like, so this sheds light into a potential career path for anyone passionate about foreign policy.
- Talk it out with people who are smarter than you.
- Prioritize time by making sure that everything I do hits two key criteria: 1) Go to events that directly align with your professional, career or intellectual goals and 2) Go to events that you genuinely think are going to be fun with your friends.
- You need to go into business with the right people.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.