A powerhouse sibling duo is taking Penn’s women’s squash by storm, as Jamila and Amina Abou El Enin have joined the ranks of high-performing Egyptian squash players pursuing athletic and academic excellence in the Ivy League.
The pair’s dynamic impact at Penn is the latest twist in their long and successful squash career together. The sisters began their athletic journey at an early age and have never played apart from one another. This has given both sisters the chance to compete constantly and push each other to new levels.
“We started at seven,” said sophomore Jamila, the oldest of the two.
“No — she started at six, I started at five,” said freshman Amina. “It was very early. Squash is big in Egypt, everybody loves and supports squash, so it was a very natural process.”
“We started at the same time,” Amina said. “[Jamila] kind of got into stuff first, because she was older, but everything was always together. We were always in the same club.”
The duo drew on Egypt’s national love of squash to inspire their athletic careers.
“There are only two sports that are big in Egypt," Jamila said. “There’s soccer and squash. So here it would be like football and basketball. Like, a lot of people are still more into soccer, but because of how good Egyptians are at squash right now, people are getting more and more into it.”
The pair was drawn to Penn by the promise of a great education and the opportunity to perform at a high level, both as students and as athletes.
“Normally if you want to go pro you don’t really go to university because in Egypt you have to play more than 10 hours a day," Amina said. “You don’t have that time here.”
The sisters agree that in the past, having a professional squash career and getting a high-level education was impossible, but now an increasing number of top Egyptian squash players are making waves in the Ivy League.
“In the past few years, people are starting to have this mentality of doing both at the same time. It’s always been like, you go pro or you go to school," Jamila said. “Now, a lot of people are like, come to the U.S., you can do both at the same time. A lot of people say it won’t work, but there are exceptions.”
Jamila was the first to commit to Penn. Amina followed her sister the year after and never really considered other schools, saying that having Jamila nearby was a big part of her decision.
“It was mostly Penn," Amina said. “At the end of the day, you want someone you know and who understands you.”
Both sisters agree that family is something they rely on, and the support they get from one another is a crucial aspect of their lives at Penn.
Jamila describes her experience before her sister Amina enrolled this year.
“It was a different experience last year because I was alone," she said. “It was like, try to manage, try to figure everything out. America is a completely different experience than Egypt. Completely. The American lifestyle is so much faster, in Egypt it’s much more chill.
“Last year [I was] adjusting to things. This year I feel like she’s adjusting but I know what’s happening and I’m here for her.”
With two full years left at Penn for Jamila and three for Amina, the pair is looking forward to chasing the best of both worlds, motivated by each other and a vibrant international community.