Yasmin Ahmed Abdillahi ’20, known for her compassion for others and for her strong Muslim faith, died last Friday after being struck by a train in Euless, Texas. She was 20 years old. According to friends and family she had been playing with cousins and accidentally encountered the moving train. Her funeral took place on Sunday, June 10, in Dallas. Her death is still under investigation, and as of Friday, June 15, the Fort Worth Police Department was unable to provide additional information to The Daily Princetonian.
Abdillahi had been working as an intern at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas through the Princeton Internships in Civic Service.
On campus, Abdillahi’s steadfast dedication to her friends, her studies, and her faith was felt by many around her. She would often spend time studying with fellow pre-med students in Whitman College, singing with campus religious groups in Murray-Dodge Hall, and bonding with her hallmates. Her friends consistently said that her smile and laugh lit up their dorm rooms.
“The joy that she had was so infectious,” Casey Li ’19 said. “Like, if she would laugh, then everyone would start laughing.” Li met Abdillahi through Princeton Faith and Action, a Christian organization on campus.
Abdillahi grew up in Roseville, Minn. and graduated from Harding Senior High School in St. Paul. She identified as Somali-American.
Sirad Hassan ’20, who also identifies at Somali-American, met Abdillahi early on at Princeton, at an orientation that took place before Outdoor Action and Community Action. Hassan said their shared Somali-American identity helped them bond immediately. Hassan, who wrote for The Daily Princetonian, would come to be Abdillahi’s closest friend at the University.
“It’s nice to know that there was someone else like me at a school like Princeton who had very similar life experiences,” Hassan said. “We understood the very nuanced upbringing of being Somali-American.”
Maria Malik ’19 lived two doors down from Abdillahi during the 2017-2018 school year. She said she always looked forward to spending time with Abdillahi in Whitman dining hall, which they did very often.
“It was always such a treat to see Yasmin after a couple days of not seeing her,” Malik said. “My dinner conversations with Yasmin would always last so long.”
Kelcey Flowers ’20 first met Abdillahi through their first year ‘Zee’ group. Sophomore year, they lived in the same quad in Whitman. Flowers said that Abdillahi was an outgoing fellow Zee group member from the start, often initiating conversations. Flowers also said Abdillahi was a great roommate, and that she was known for having a clean room, decorated with her own artwork.
“Her room was always immaculate,” Flowers said.
Heavyn Jennings ’20 first met Abdillahi the summer after her junior year of high school at Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America, a 7-week enrichment program held on campus. After matriculating to the University, Jennings and Abdillahi would reminisce about their days in LEDA as well as their participation in the Freshman Scholars’ Institute. Jennings is a psychology major, and like Abdillahi, is pre-med.
“Yasmin was the type of person you could go to and not know if you're about to have a hilarious conversation about the ridiculousness of Princeton life, or a serious conversation about the pre-med struggle,” Jennings wrote in an email response.
Abdillahi was the type of friend who brought people from different social circles together, especially within religious life at Princeton.
“It was such a beautiful thing that I made so many new friends through her,” said Hassan, who is president of Muslim Students Association.
As an active member of Muslim Students Association, Princeton Faith and Action, Worship House, and a Muslim-Christian Dialogue group, Abdillahi was known for her devotion to God across different religions.
“She was such a bridge between faith traditions, there was just so much love for God in her heart,” said Li, who is active in PFA.
One of Li’s favorite memories with Abdillahi was when they attended PFA’s annual Ski Safari, in which members spent five days of intersession break in upstate New York. Li said that while cross-country skiing together on a frozen lake, her friendship with Abdillahi was strengthened by the serene natural environment around them.
Abdillahi’s Muslim friends said it is significant that she passed away during the last 10 days of Ramadan, the most important month in the Islamic calendar. Abdillahi passed away on the 25th day of Ramadan, which is especially auspicious, said Hassan in a phone interview.
Muslim Life Coordinator Imam Sohaib Sultan first me Abdillahi when he hosted a group of Muslim students from FSI for dinner, something he does every year. Sultan said that Abdillahi was the type of student who wasn’t afraid to ask what complex words meant when she didn’t know.
“She was proud of who she was and wouldn’t pretend to be anything else,” Sultan said.
Sultan recalled a time when, after introducing Abdullahi to his young nephew, she entertained him for hours, telling him interesting and funny facts.
Abdillahi was sensitive to the needs of others, often taking the first initiative to talk with people in group settings. Sultan said how once, at a speaker event on campus, he turned to see Abdillahi having a long conversation with the event’s food caterer in the corner of the large room.
Friends also said that Abdillahi’s passion for her pre-med studies never wavered. She was considering being a chemistry major before she took time off from Princeton beginning in mid-April 2018. Friends said that Abdillahi had been encouraged to take time off from school so that she could retake organic chemistry at another academic institution, like the University of Minnesota. She was planning on returning to campus in the spring of 2019, and according to friends, she had a “game plan,” and was optimistic about succeeding upon continuing her studies.
“Even when she was struggling in her classes, she had a deep love for chemistry,” said Malik, who is majoring in CBE and is also pre-med.
Fellow pre-med friends said they often depended on Abdillahi to get through notoriously challenging pre-med courses, such as organic chemistry.
“Even though orgo was a very difficult class, knowing that she was going through it with me was very calm and very helpful,” said Hassan, who is pre-med and majoring in the Woodrow Wilson School.
Besides religious groups, Abdillahi participated in Taekwondo on campus. Friends also said she was a gifted artist. After taking an introductory painting class her freshman fall Abdullahi often painted in her free time, and shared her artwork with friends.
She is survived by her parents, sister, and three brothers. Her father, Ahmed Abdillahi Ahmed, said that Abdillahi was a perfect child, beyond his imagination. He said she was the type of sister who was always encouraging her younger siblings to be all they could be.
He also said his daughter loved college and loved Princeton. School, family, and friends were the guiding force of her life.
“Everything that she was doing at Princeton, everything that she was dedicated to, was so in the long run she could provide for her family and help her family succeed,” her friend Hassan said. “She was a sweet and caring daughter to her parents, and she alway was a very caring older sister to her younger siblings.”
A gathering of remembrance was held at Murray-Dodge Hall at 6:30 p.m. on June 11, and a memorial service will take place when students return to campus in the fall.
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