Zainab Naziri’s passion for education and a better life for herself and others around the world has pushed her to find a home even when she’s far from her own. In her story she shares how she has overcome challenges associated with being a foreigner in a new country and how that has shaped her future goals.

My name is Zainab Naziri, and I am from Kabul, Afghanistan.

Due to war and security problems when I was growing up, my parents migrated to Iran. I remember a time when I was a student at Emam Hussain Askari High School in Iran and had been chosen as an honors student. Unfortunately, from that day onward, everybody — including some of my teachers — treated me very badly because I was an Afghan refugee, and they thought that I didn’t have the right to attend an Iranian school. I was beaten and teased by Iranians on my way to school. I was afraid to tell my father about this situation because I thought that he wouldn’t let me attend that school anymore.

Although the Taliban was still in Afghanistan, and there were bomb blasts every day, the Iranian government forced all Afghans refugees to go back home. I was so scared, but the first thing I asked from my father was if I could go to school in Afghanistan safely. “Yes, of course; in Afghanistan, no one will insult you because of your ethnicity,” he said.

When we arrived back to Afghanistan, my father took me to Marefat High School. When I was in ninth grade, I started to learn English at a language access program that was held in my school. In 2012, I received a great opportunity to travel to India with a group of other students from different parts of Afghanistan through the Youth Solidarity and English Language program. Besides learning English, I became familiar with Indian culture.

In 2013, I became involved with Global Nomads Group, a program that helps students worldwide share their beliefs and cultures with each other through GNG’s site and online conferences. I made some good connections with American students this way.

I graduated from Marefat High School in 2014. In 2015, I finished my English as a second language program at Southern New Hampshire University. Currently, I am a student at Manchester Community College, majoring in health science.

When I first landed in America, I faced many great challenges and experiences on my academic path. These were a mixture of financial and language problems, but they could not separate me from my goals and dreams because I know that I won’t grow when things are easy; I will grow when things are challenging.

I became more independent in America. Imagine being far away from family and having a language barrier and cultural differences. Despite all these problems, I am extremely happy and blessed to have many caring people around me, especially my beloved host family who took me under their wings and treated me like I was their child. It’s so inspiring to me me when I see how much American people care for each other, no matter your race and ethnicity.

My future dream is to be a doctor and travel to poor countries, especially refugee camps, where they really need good care. My education is very important to me. Education is the great engine of personal development, so it is through education that I can achieve my goals. I encourage women to get an education because the education of women and girls is essential not only to promoting gender equality, but also to address the full spectrum of 21st century challenges.

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