Valentine's Day means many things to many people. For some, it’s exclusively a chance to reaffirm romantic love. For others, it’s an opportunity to express warmth and gratitude to family and friends. Recent SASN alumnae Samah Farid and Najira Ahmed fall into the latter category.
As freshman back in 2016, they met while waiting to enter their English class during the first week of school, then started hanging out and became inseparable. For four years at RU-N, the two Honors College students shared majors and classes, extracurricular activities and an extended group of friends: Both were part of the Honors College, majoring in Biology and minoring in chemistry; both served on the Honors College Student Council and were part of the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students and the Muslim Student Association; and both worked with the RU-N Alumni Association.
Fast-forward to 2021, six months after they graduated, and they’re as close as ever, working together at the same company, integrated into each other’s family and supporting each other’s dreams. We recently sat down with Samah and Najira to explore their history and see what makes their friendship so special in the lead-up to Valentine's Day.
Tell us a little about your background.
Najira: I was born in Bangladesh and moved to Paterson, NJ, with my family when I was 6 months old, then moved to Elmwood Park, NJ, where we live now, when I was 10. Although I am the first one in my family to graduate from college, my parents valued education and pushed me and my siblings to do our best in school.
Samah: My parents emigrated to the U.S. from Karachi, Pakistan, and I was born here and grew up in Pomona, NY, then moved to Suffern, NY, when I was 10. My parents did not graduate from high school—it was dangerous for them to attend school—but they did an amazing job to make sure me and my siblings excelled in school.
How did you meet?
Najira: I was nervous about college, looking at my phone and trying to avoid small talk while waiting to go into class. Then I heard someone ask if we could go in, looked up at Samah and said I didn’t know, and we decided to just walk in. I sat in the back at first. Samah sat in front, then asked if I would sit next to her.
It’s hard to put into words. It’s more than a friendship; she’s like my sister. Having her by my side has only made life that much sweeter.
Samah: Then we noticed we had a lot of courses together and decided to walk together to our classes and help each other with school work.
You became really close soon after meeting and did so much together.
Najira: We became super-close in just a few days, and served on executive boards, went to the gym and studied together.
Samah: I still find it surreal that we became so close in such a short period of time. I think it’s because we were really good at being honest with each other and not letting the small things get in the way of our friendship.
Is there anything you didn’t do together?
Najira: [Laughs] Yes, I served as senator, then Executive Secretary, of the Student Governing Association. And I worked as an EMT.
Samah: We both served as research assistants as well, but I worked with Professor Mark Gluck’s African American Brain Health Initiative and Najira with University Hospital.
And now you even work together.
Samah: That’s right! After graduation I started helping my brother at his new company, SilkRoad. We were looking for more help, and I knew Najira would be perfect. Although it took a bit to convince her, it is the best thing ever! Not only do we get to work together, we’ve been able to help the company grow. Najira has become family, and she works so hard every day and never just does half a job.
How would you describe your friendship?
Najira: It’s hard to put into words. It’s more than a friendship; she’s like my sister. Having her by my side has only made life that much sweeter. We always enjoy each other’s company, and we often laugh til our stomach hurts.
Samah: Najira has always been there for me. For example, our first evening class was Psychology, and although I lived 10 minutes away from RU-N, Najira would not let me take the bus home. She went out of her way to drive me to make sure I was safe. That’s her kindness. She shows she cares through actions.
And Najira has become part of your family?
Samah: Yes! She’s not just my friend, she’s my sisters’ friend as well. If I’m on FaceTime, they also talk to her. My uncle always calls her Ninja when he sees her because he always forgets her name. Did I mention she’s adopted my uncle? He finds that hilarious.
What wishes do you have for each other this Valentine’s Day?
Najira: My wish for Samah, not just for Valentine's Day but for every day, is that she is happy and reaches all the goals that she has set for herself. I also wish that she sees how amazing a person she is and hope she doesn't let anyone bring down her spirit.
Samah: I wish that Najira accomplishes all her goals and dreams. She not only works hard but is always pushing herself to be better, and deserves everything this life has to offer. I also hope that Najira sees how great of a person she is because she is way too self-critical! And I hope that she gets to do all her bucket-list items, like ice skating and taking sporadic road-trips, and that I get to be there with her!
Thanks so much for sitting down with us.
Najira + Samah: Thank you!