Category: Featured News, Graduate Profiles 2021, News, Students

Title: Alima Travaly (SFS’21) Makes the Most of Time on Hilltop to Unlock a World of Possibilities

Author: Mairead MacRae
Date Published: May 12, 2021

Completing an undergraduate degree as an international student can be challenging at the best of times. Navigating the culture of a new country and building a community from scratch while being far from home all takes work. But Global Business (GBUS) major Alima Travaly (SFS’21) also had the disruption of a global pandemic to deal with. 

Profile picture of Alima Travaly
Travaly will take up a position as an associate consultant at management consulting firm Bain & Company after graduating.

“Studying during the pandemic was challenging as an international student, particularly because of the time difference,” she explains. “At times, I was 7 to 8 hours ahead of Georgetown and, as a result, maintaining a healthy studying routine was quite hard.”

However, the senior — who was born in Dakar, Senegal — took the upheaval in stride. To adjust to the realities of COVID-19, she applied the approach that has been her go-to throughout her time at Georgetown: making the most of the opportunities in front of her.

Now, as Travaly prepares to take on her next challenge, a new job with an NYC-based management consulting firm, she is optimistic, despite the difficulties of the last year. 

“I think I will look back on this time as a moment of personal development,” she says. “It was very challenging for many reasons, the pandemic being only one of them, but it also allowed me to grow exponentially as a person.”


At A Glance

Hometown: Dakar, Senegal

Major: Global Business

Minor: History

Language: French

Experiences Abroad: India Innovation Studio, Maharashtra, India; Study Abroad Program, National University of Singapore, Singapore

On-Campus Activities: Georgetown Superfood; UNICEF Georgetown; Georgetown Ventures; Hilltop Microfinance Initiative

Off-Campus Activities: Analyst Intern, KPMG France, Paris

Finding a Passion

When Travaly was picking her major, one stood out in particular: GBUS. The program enables students to explore the role of the private sector in international affairs and take classes both within SFS and Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business (MSB). 

“I was attracted by the interdisciplinary aspect of the GBUS major,” Travaly says. “It gave me the opportunity to cross over the two schools and to fully take advantage of my Georgetown experience. GBUS gave me access to a greater pool of resources and opportunities and allowed me to learn about the variety of business.”

In addition to capitalizing on the dual opportunities of two Georgetown schools, she also looked to experiences beyond the classroom to find new career interests, training and networks. 

Travaly is walking through a residential area in Maharashtra, India. She is making the peace sign. Her classmates and professors walk behind her.
Travaly’s favorite class was the Centennial Lab India Innovation Studio. In 2019, the class visited programs managed by the Paani Foundation, a non-profit organization working to create a drought-free Maharashtra.

She gained business and finance experience through her participation in student clubs Georgetown Ventures — a student-run startup accelerator that supports undergraduate entrepreneurs — and the Hilltop Microfinance Initiative, a student group that provides small business loans and financial coaching to low-income business owners in Washington, D.C.

She also found opportunities to pursue other passions. Her deep love of music led her to join a cappella group Georgetown Superfood, while a commitment to international service drove her to seek out volunteer opportunities within UNICEF-Georgetown, a student organization that sponsors Georgetown undergraduates to educate, advocate and fundraise for children around the world. 

Group photo of students in Georgetown Supergood. They are backstage after a performance.
Travaly joined a cappella group Georgetown Superfood to pursue her passion for music alongside other interests on the Hilltop.

“It was important for me to balance my pre-professional activities with my desire to pursue music and volunteering work,” she notes.

Travaly’s busy extracurricular schedule paid off, she says, connecting her with friends who provided her with some of the most rewarding learning opportunities she had on the Hilltop.

“I believe that I got most of my valuable knowledge from my Georgetown peers,” she explains. “Even though the professors are incredibly resourceful, supportive and approachable, I think that my fellow classmates that I met through clubs or courses had the most significant impact on my Georgetown experience.”

Beyond The Hilltop

Inside the classroom, one experience stands out for Travaly: her favorite course, India Innovation Studio.

In fall 2018, she enrolled in the Centennial Lab taught by SFS professors Mark Giordano and Irfan Nooruddin. First offered in 2017, in the lead-up to the SFS Centennial year, Centennial Labs provide students with the opportunity to work with local leaders and stakeholders to find solutions to real issues around the world. 

The India Innovation Studio partners SFS students and faculty members with the government of Maharashtra to work on collaborative approaches to the problem of canals and irrigation in four different states in India.

Group photo of India Innovation Studio in front of the Gateway of India.
During the India Innovation Studio class trip in 2019, Travaly visited Mumbai.

“It was my favorite class at Georgetown because its goal was to design and develop solutions that could be implemented on the ground,” Travaly explains. “As students we were able to articulate recommendations based on the knowledge learned in class, and present our findings to the government and civil society stakeholders.” 

“We were also given the opportunity to travel to India as a class over the summer, which was an amazing trip!” she adds.

The class was not the only international opportunity Travaly took advantage of during her time at Georgetown. In the spring semester of her junior year, she studied at the National University of Singapore. 

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic cut the trip short, but Travaly still recognizes the benefits she got from the program. “I had to go home earlier than I wished, but I am grateful that I managed to make the most out of it and that I still had a wonderful time there!”

Optimism in Adversity

This optimistic outlook has served Travaly well, even during the extremely difficult final year she and her classmates have experienced. 

In the fall 2020 semester, Georgetown announced that all classes would be held virtually, to ensure the safety of the campus community during the pandemic. While Travaly was disappointed, she was determined to make the most of it. 

“I decided to find an internship that would’ve allowed me to work while taking classes,” she says. “I was living in Paris during that semester so I interned at KPMG France and worked as an analyst in the Integration and Separation team. Not being on campus has also allowed me to intern in a different country for a semester, which was a truly rewarding experience.”

Travaly is pictured at the front of a classroom next to another instructor. A slideshow with the words "Banking Basics" is depicted on a projector screen behind her.
Travaly helps to lead a financial coaching session with the Hilltop Microfinance Initiative.

She also had the opportunity to spend more time at home. “The pandemic allowed me to spend a great amount of time with my family. As a person who left home at 15, it was a great time to become closer to my parents.”

Before the pandemic, Travaly stayed connected to her roots through D.C.’s art and music scene. 

“I grew up in a very artistic family so finding a way to incorporate the arts into my Georgetown routine was very important to me,” she explains. “Exploring D.C. through the arts was my favorite way to break the ‘Georgetown bubble.’ From outdoor-concerts, to art exhibitions, to Artechouse, I would always manage to find a way of enjoying what D.C. has to offer.”

Travaly also stayed grounded amid her busy schedule by savoring what she calls the “(not so) little moments.”

“I have so many beautiful memories here,” she says. “Grabbing Midnight Mug with a classmate at 10pm in the library, enjoying the start of spring on the front lawn, having a picnic by the waterfront or even meeting a friend for coffee in a different city around the world during the holidays.”

She continues, “I could go on for quite a while, and I am so grateful for Georgetown for allowing me to live these beautiful moments.”

A World of Possibilities

Now, Travaly is saying farewell to the Hilltop as she makes her move to New York City. The senior has secured a position as an Associate Consultant at management consulting firm Bain & Company. 

However, as with every new challenge she has taken on, Travaly is looking to the long-term and is keen to explore the future possibilities that this next step may open up for her. 

“While I am currently going into management consulting, it is my goal to ultimately pursue a career in international development,” she explains. “I believe that studying in the SFS gave me the appropriate tools to enter that field, and I am looking forward to seeing how this interdisciplinary education will help me in the long run.”

Her approach, to always be ready to seize the opportunities that come her way, made for an unforgettable Georgetown experience and she hopes her experience may serve as an example for new students as they arrive on campus. 

“Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone: go to office hours to have a chat with this professor that you admire so much, take classes that are outside of your major, apply to the club that you have always wanted to join,” she advises. “Make the most of your time here.”