As one of the first women in Saudi Arabia to graduate from law school, Hiba Alsharif LLM’19 had the freedom to launch a career in an area that had always interested her: international law.
She earned her initial law degree at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah in 2014, where she was part of one of the first classes of female law graduates from the school.
“I was very interested in law, but it was a somewhat new field for women [in Saudi Arabia] back then. It had just opened a few years before I graduated from high school,” said Alsharif. She was drawn to the field of law because it involved helping others, which had long been among her priorities. Indeed, during both high school and law school Alsharif spent much of her time engaged in charitable work.
“During my last year in high school, I organized an event where we gathered money for a girl at an orphanage,” she said. “We raised money for clothes and also provided her with school supplies for the entire school year.”
Later, as a law student, Alsharif formed a committee with a group of classmates to raise money for several causes, including building wells for villages in the Philippines that lacked access to water, and providing support to university janitorial staff and others who needed financial assistance.
After graduating from King Abdulaziz University, she was inspired to continue her education by her mother, who worked in academia and was one of the first women in Saudi Arabia to earn a masters degree in accounting. Alsharif ultimately decided to go abroad, and in support of her studies the Ministry of Education of Saudi Arabia awarded her a competitive full scholarship to attend Penn Law for an LLM degree.
Before moving to Philadelphia, Alsharif spent a year living in New York City where she completed an internship with the Saudi Arabian Mission to the United Nations. There, she helped to coordinate special projects with the UN ambassador and report back to the foreign ministry back in Saudi Arabia. At the same time, she attended the Columbia University School of Professional Studies.
At Penn Law, Alsharif has continued her focus on international law while also exploring other subjects, taking courses in foreign relations law, conflict of laws, and constitutional criminal procedure. After she completes her LLM, a position at the Saudi Arabian Civil Aviation Authority awaits her in Saudi Arabia. Alsharif will be the latest in her family to enter the field of aviation, as one of her older brothers is a pilot and her father previously worked for airlines in Saudi Arabia.
The Civil Aviation Authority issues flying licenses to pilots and regulates the airspace in Saudi Arabia.
“Most of the airspace laws [in Saudi Arabia] are treaties and [international] conventions, [and] that’s why I was so interested in working with the Civil Aviation Authority,” she said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to experience international law in practice.”