Everyday, I strive to learn the best way to live my life ON purpose so I can empower others to do the same!
Who are you?
The saying often goes “you can take the girl out of Brooklyn but never the Brooklyn out of the girl.” That’s me. I’m Dania Sandfia – born and raised in Brooklyn, NY – your diehard city chick. Nothing gets me moving and grooving like the Big Apple and all the energy that it contains. It truly is a concrete jungle where dreams are made of – that’s something Alicia Keys got right.
Besides my obvious love for NYC, I’m currently a senior at Barnard College, an all women’s liberal arts college in the heart of Manhattan, affiliated with Columbia University. I am a psychology major and economics minor. I’m also a student of leadership studies particularly in how it relates to women and the world. Going to college at an all women’s school has opened my eyes to women and gender issues and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to take many classes in the field. Feminist right here, woot woot! Before going to Barnard, I went to a specialized high school: Brooklyn Technical High School. It is and will always be a guiding light in my life. Tech is such an empowering place.
During my time there, I was heavily involved in the Student Government Organization – where I served as President in my senior year. Serving in SGO helped me to develop my leadership and professional development skills as well as empowered me to take on opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have. In my junior year, I got involved with Muslim American Society (MAS) Youth, where I worked on a range of programs aimed at empowering young Muslims, and have been a member ever since. I’m currently involved with Oaktree Institute, a leadership academy focused on developing citizen leaders who are driven by faith and trust in God. At OTI, I lead leadership instructor, Mohammad Abbasi’s team, focusing on leadership development and youth empowerment.
Professionally, I am looking to jump-start a career in strategy/management consulting and/or marketing. I recently interned on the Corporate Digital Marketing team at Penguin-Random House focusing specifically on digital advertising and technology. This fall, I start job researching and applying, which is both exciting and nerve wrecking. To load off the stress, Chipotle, Thai food, heartily laughs, and socializing are the keys! Everyday, I strive to learn the best way to live my life ON purpose so I can empower others to do the same!
Give us your favorite quote and tell us why it mean so much to you:
“Today you are you/that is truer than true/there is no one alive/that is youer than you” – Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss is always spot on. He tells you the truth like it is, and this is the truest truth anyone could ever tell you. I love this quote because it reminds me that, today, I am in the most perfect form that I can ever be and that there is no one in the world like me. I’m unique, special, and different, and I’m reminded that I shouldn’t try to act like somebody else!
What Ayah of the Quran do you hold close to your heart? Why?
Surah Baqara, 186
“And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.”
This is one of my favorite ayahs in the Quran because it emphasizes and illustrates the Mercy and Compassion of Allah swt. This is the ayah that I turn to in distress. It reminds me that My Lord is listening, He’s near, and that He wants ME, His slave, to turn all my sorrows, anxieties, fears, happiness, everything to Him. This ayah also reminds me to be proactive in my religious endeavors – Allah swt responds to me when I call out to Him. He does so much for me without my asking – my reaching out is another way My Lord seeks to spiritually discipline me.
What Hadith do you wish more non-Muslims knew about? Why?
“A smile in the face of your sister/brother is charity.”
I love smiling – and to be reassured by my religion that something which brings warmth, happiness, and love to other people is something that has up to 700x the reward of charity makes me in awe. We all know that the mercy and effect of a smile on someone’s day is infinite and it’s something that my Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) had on his face all day, every day, and at every moment during the day. Also, it’s awesome that for something so simple, God rewards us so generously.
1. What is your favorite book?
I don’t have a favorite book. I will read anything until I realize that this is not the book for me and then move on. Nowadays, I’m reading a lot of personal development, leadership, and business books. I’m currently reading “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington. Also, I update my reading list on GoodReads – lets be reading buddies!
2. Who inspires/inspired you?
Historical role model: Abu Bakr al-Siddiq. Abu Bakr was that companion who, by fajr time (dawn prayer), had given charity, visited the sick, read Quran, was fasting, and followed a funeral procession. He was compassionate, wise, productive, and extremely successful in his career. He maintained the best balance between both, religion (deen) and this world (dunya). He inspires me to be the best of myself through constantly seeking opportunities that benefit both others and myself.
3. What is the best lesson your mother/mother figure taught you?
Be complete and whole in your individuality and never depend on someone else. When I was in my early teens, I complained to my mom about dad’s refusal to buy me some sort of clothing item and instead of taking my side or shutting me up, she told me to go get a job – where I earn my own money to spend however I like. She also, day in and day out, would remind my sister and I that other people (particularly boys) don’t complete the already beautiful people that we are.
4. What advice would you give your 13 year old self?
Don’t hold onto superficial relationships (read: “friendships” based around how many and what kind of things you have, popularity, and nothing substantial) and do not let those kinds of relationships influence the decisions you make. The things that you have and wear do not define you. Your body and size do not define you. Be sincere to yourself and don’t repress your beaming personality.
5. What are your hopes for your daughter(s)?
Know yourself and assert it. You will not always be right – be willing to back down when you should. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes but learn from them. Follow your heart but don’t be stupid. Confidence and smiles are contagious – make this an integral part of you. Happiness is from within – don’t look to others for it. Most of all, I’ll always be here with a listening ear and years of experience, wisdom, and advice to pass on.
6. What is the biggest trial you went through in your life and how has that changed you?
In high school, I was a superstar – I had a role in a million clubs and honor societies, external academic and non-academic programs and internships, and was almost never rejected from anything that I applied for. Transitioning into college was tough for me because for the first time in immense quantity, I experienced failure. I did horrible in some classes, got rejected from lots of jobs, internships, and programs, and felt helpless. My ego hurt, but I’ve learned to accept failure as a stepping-stone to success and now seek to fail forward.
7. Any regrets? What’s something that you wish you’d thought about more before you did it?
I try to live life with no regrets but since the topic has been brought up, here goes. I regret the times that I was inconsiderate of others’ feelings (bad EQ), the times where I set myself up for heartbreak, the times where I felt that I had to keep my guard up when I didn’t, and the times that I didn’t keep my guard up and I should’ve.
8. How do you stay grounded in your work and/or spiritually grounded?
Camp retreats, Ramadan, and daily/weekly practices are so essential to helping me stay spiritually grounded. While daily/weekly routines are great for consistency and an overall maintenance of spirituality, camp retreats and Ramadan are great times for me to be able to reflect holistically on my state and tweak and seek help where necessary.
9. How do you bring about real change?
Real change begins and ends at vulnerability. Living a cushy life is nice, but the one way to go beyond the state you’re currently in, in order to grow, develop, and change for the better, is by being vulnerable. Accept that job that you aren’t comfortable with, take that class that you later on regret, confront your supervisor when you feel that your personal space has been violated, start and maintain a long distance relationship, live with people you don’t know, get to know more about your family roots, publish articles you’re not confident of, send a message to others you haven’t seen in a while, be late to work and wake up an hour earlier the next day, make mistakes and apologize, open up your deepest, darkest secrets to the person/people you care about most, don’t be afraid to make a career switch, plan a social engagement in 3 weeks, completely fall straight on your face, get bruised up and hurt, but always and forever get right back up.
10. What do you hope to be remembered for?
My ability to inspire and motivate others to accomplish and achieve beyond what they believed possible. The warmth of my smile, the strength of my personality, the compassion of my interactions, and the happiness of my presence.
Message from Dania: