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Afghan Student Talks about Her Life & Studies in US

Part of one’s developmental stage is to expand one’s social life, meet new people, and see different places. It has a tremendous impact on how the person sees himself/herself, how s/he shapes his/her worldview, and how s/he can benefit from the new experiences to set new goals by appreciating cultural differences and pluralistic worlds. Fatima Arabzada talks about her experience of studying and living in a new environment; in this case, the US. Esmael Darman


Fatima Arabzada

As a practicing Muslim, patriotic Afghan, and a female, journeying back and forth to the U.S. and Afghanistan have been eventful and adventurous. Coming to the U.S. was a hard decision to make especially coming from an unstable province. Being a girl only contributed to making my decision of going to the U.S. more complex. My father and brother, who as men are considered to be the ones responsible for the actions of the women in the house, were questioned, threatened and admonished for “letting us loose.” However, they stood against all that and provided me with this opportunity.

Upon my arrival in the U.S., it was hard to adjust to the food, new people, and new environment. For instance, personal space is critical: when two girls and boys hold hands, they are assumed to be gay or lesbian, but in Afghanistan, it is normal.

Fatima goes to the United World College, USA

Also, finding my sense of humor and in a new language was challenging, as I had to learn everything in another language. In addition, I suddenly had all the privileges that I never had in Afghanistan. I had a lot more resources and opportunities, and because my interest in sports and leadership, I had the chance to learn and practice both. Coming to the U.S. made me realize that I had a lot of misconceptions myself as well. All these changes brought a lot of confusion as well. I observed, and learned a lot daily, for example the grammar, their reactions and such. I now think of problems in Afghanistan daily; it has become part of my unconscious and continuous thinking.

While in the U.S., I was upset and furious many times while hearing new rules made in Afghanistan about the security and the conditions in Afghanistan. I would zone out in class. At times I got discouraged; I didn’t see much point in doing anything. Later, everything that I was sad about became a motivation to study and change them.  In the U.S., I have done a lot of volunteer work. I have learned many different skills. Some of these skills include public speaking, hunting, ice-skating, fly-fishing, horse-back riding, Islamic Calligraphy, debate, fundraising, and driving a car. Most of these skills have brought me further success as well. I have given many presentations about different aspects of Islam and Afghanistan. I have grown confident in my beliefs and the ability of Afghans to make Afghanistan a better place to live.

Being social and friendly has helped me to get through the difficult times. I accustomed myself into asking questions, when needed at all times and have overcome my shyness about expressing my ideas. Keeping up with my family friends and news about Afghanistan as well as my life and studies in the US has been a worthwhile challenge, which helped me with allocating my time better.

By living in the U.S. as a developed country, I am gaining the tools that will allow me to help rebuild Afghanistan, help to reestablish our reputation, and to eliminate negative stereotypes. Directing projects, internships in the offices, familiarizing myself with the new technology, and new ways of thinking through studying in an international school, where 75% of the students are from 80 different countries of the world. I am a lot more realistic about my judgments, and points of view at any point and time. I feel very much empowered. I have grown endless and unconditional love toward my people and country. I have also realized that with more education come more responsibilities. As not only Afghan, but also an Afghan female, I am lucky to be studying in the best education system in the world. Yet I still feel a great responsibility toward my family and my people.

I will contribute to rebuilding Afghanistan through creating employment and policy-making (policy changing). I want to help Afghans to understand that both men and women are capable of leading their own lives and creating positive change in the world.

When I returned to Afghanistan, I appreciated many aspects of our society, such as hospitality, people’s thirst for education, and much more. I also recognized injustice and corruption daily.

Being an Afghan who has traveled between the U.S. and Afghanistan for many years, I have often found my place as a teacher about each country. Having freedom in every aspect of life as a girl in the U.S. made moving back to Afghanistan harder than I had imagined. I have become outspoken, intolerant of injustice, and capable of questioning things at any time. I am thankful for Allah, my family and friends for helping me in every stage of overcoming the difficulties of my life’s transitions.


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Rawan Online is the first website on psychology and mental health for Afghans covering a wide range of topics related to health and relationships.

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