From Obstacles to Achievements: Nazdana’s Journey to Winning Four Scholarships Simultaneously

By: Behnia

Finding a girl who defies the turmoil of a war-torn Asian land and political upheavals by taking determined steps towards her goals instead of succumbing to helplessness is a rare occurrence. Nazdana, a student in her early twenties, has achieved the remarkable feat of receiving scholarships from four prestigious universities worldwide simultaneously. She stands among a select few girls who have attained such remarkable success. What fuels this young girl’s relentless pursuit is the unwavering belief she has etched in her mind: “education or death.”

In an interview with Hasht-e Subh Daily, Nazdana shares her remarkable journey and sheds light on why she has remained resilient amidst the chaotic times, dedicating her days of educational deprivation to diligent studying. She reveals that in the aftermath of the Republic regime’s downfall, she found herself confined to the corners of her room as a girl denied access to education and employment. However, Nazdana perceives this circumstance as a blessing and has seized the opportunity to delve into the writings of renowned politicians worldwide. Each book she reads unravels a courageous spirit within her, urging her to reconstruct her dreams from scratch within the pages of knowledge.

With each political book she reads, Nazdana becomes increasingly aware of her situation and that of other girls in her war-torn homeland. It fuels her determination to break free from the constraints imposed upon her by the country’s rulers, manifested in the narrow confines of her dark room. Nazdana expresses her long-standing dream, stating, “I have always aspired to excel, to be an exceptional individual no matter where I am or which organization I am affiliated with. I strive to work and behave differently.” This mindset propels her from a state of deprivation to one of upliftment, as she rebuilds the nest of her hope with renewed vigor.

At just 21 years old, Nazdana has already cherished a childhood full of excitement and cherished moments of adolescence in the district of Malistan, Ghazni province. Throughout her life, she has nurtured dreams of a prosperous future. Despite facing severe shortages of teachers and educational resources, this determined young girl graduated from “Wali Asr-e Rabat” high school in Ghazni province in 2019. Through the Public Entrance Exam (Kankur), she secured admission to the Faculty of Law and Political Science at Kabul University. However, after three years of studies, the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, like many other girls in the country, hindered her educational journey.

As the Taliban took control, her hopes crumbled, and the rhythm of her dreams faltered. Confined to the corner of her room, deprived of the right to education, she immerses herself in books authored by world-renowned politicians. Drawing inspiration from the protagonists within, she envisions herself braver than ever before. With each book she reads, she yearns for a brighter future not only for herself but also for the girls in her homeland, fueling her determination to pursue her dreams with unwavering courage.

After enduring a year under Taliban rule, Nazdana defies surrendering to deprivation and resolves to seek a pathway to continue her education, freeing herself from this predicament. She expresses, “Day by day, the constraints on women grew more stringent, stripping us of our basic human rights and isolating us from society. Even engaging in social activities became impossible. These severe limitations led me to the realization that Afghanistan is not where I belong, and just as my talents are ready to bloom, my freedom has been snatched away.” Fueled by these hardships, she channels her determination and simultaneously applies for multiple scholarships in different countries.

She relentlessly pursues success on this journey. Throughout the day, she gathers the necessary documents for scholarship applications, and during the night, she wholeheartedly dedicates herself to studying for upcoming exams. Nazdana elaborates, “There were countless sleepless nights when I pondered what they might inquire during the interviews. I filled numerous blank pages with their queries and my responses.”

Despite the obstacles imposed by the Taliban, Nazdana perseveres in her relentless efforts to overcome their barriers. The authorities of the city have consistently hindered her progress. Acquiring a passport is pivotal for her to secure scholarships, and she exhausts every possible avenue to obtain it. However, obtaining a passport under Taliban rule is as arduous as navigating a battlefield. After days filled with anticipation and repeated disappointments, she ultimately triumphs in obtaining the passport and other necessary documents.

Nazdana has faced considerable hardships in her pursuit of the desired scholarship. She actively applies for three scholarships offered by Eastern and Western countries, in addition to another scholarship from an American university that provides online education exclusively for Afghan girls who are deprived of their right to education under Taliban rule.

Months go by, and Nazdana anxiously awaits acceptance emails from these educational institutions while diligently preparing for any written or oral exams that may come her way. Eventually, the deadlines for her scholarship applications approach, and one by one, she receives confirmation emails from all the universities. She actively participates in the entrance exams and successfully completes the first and second stages of the scholarship selection process. In the days that follow, she nervously awaits the announcement of the final results, embarking on a journey towards the gateway of one of these universities, filled with anticipation and joy.

After a year of unwavering dedication, Nazdana’s efforts finally yield results, triumphing over the hardships and obstacles that stood in her way towards education. She receives acceptance letters from four prestigious universities worldwide: the University of Bremen in Germany, LUMS in Pakistan, Asian University for Women (AUW), and the University of People (an online American university), each offering her the opportunity to pursue her undergraduate studies.

Nazdana finds herself in a surreal moment, afraid that opening her eyes would reveal it all to be a mere dream. Yet, the reality stands as a testament to her unwavering dedication. Nazdana expresses, “I labored tirelessly, day and night, for this achievement. It brings me immense joy to see my efforts rewarded.” Among the options, she selects the University of Bremen in Germany, embarking on a journey as a law student filled with boundless hope for the future.

Nazdana’s challenging educational journey unfolds as she makes the courageous decision to depart from the familiar embrace of willow and tall cypress trees, leaving behind cherished memories of her teenage years. Her path leads her to the bustling capital, Kabul, where she resolves to chase her dreams. After completing her schooling, she dives headfirst into the rigorous and exhilarating process of preparing for the Public Entrance Exam, enrolling in preparatory courses alongside her peers, each driven by their own aspirations.

On her journey to becoming a politician in a society engulfed by waves of threats and war, Nazdana confronts countless challenges and imminent security risks that could snatch her life away at any moment. Undeterred by the constant perils, she tenaciously pursues her dreams. Nazdana resolutely states, “The training course we attended was always at risk of attack and potential explosions, putting our lives in jeopardy. However, I never faltered, always reminding myself that it was a choice between education and death.”

In Kabul, renowned Educational Training Centers have witnessed the loss of determined individuals who once shared a common goal with Nazdana. They were comrades in the pursuit of their aspirations, but unfortunately, bullets and explosions claimed their lives. Nazdana, however, emerged from this harrowing environment, finding liberation. Following the Public Entrance Exam (Kankur), the day of reckoning arrives, and this young girl triumphs in the field of law and political science at Kabul University—a testament to her unwavering dedication and perseverance.

Nazdana, having endured life’s hardships, positions herself on the frontlines of the battle to realize her dreams and strives for excellence in this pursuit. With determination, she successfully completes three years of university studies and eagerly pursues her courses in her chosen field. As she approaches the culmination of her university education, fate takes an unexpected turn. Suddenly, the political landscape in Afghanistan undergoes a transformation.

Politicians toy with her fate and the aspirations of thousands of other young individuals, erecting obstacles that hinder Afghan girls from realizing their dreams. Nazdana recalls, “On the day the Taliban arrived, I was studying at the university. I couldn’t fathom it. The thought that the Taliban were on the verge of taking over never occurred to me.” Despite these unsettling circumstances, she persevered, forging ahead and dismantling the barriers imposed by the injustices of her era.

As a girl deprived of education rights in Afghanistan, Nazdana implores all families to stand by their daughters in the present circumstances, enabling them to find alternative pathways for pursuing their studies, much like she has. She emphasizes, “I urge all families in Afghanistan to provide encouragement and support to their daughters for their success. Today, I have been granted four scholarships, and I owe it all to the unwavering support of my family. Without their emotional and financial backing, I wouldn’t be standing here today.”

Nazdana is not alone in navigating the challenging circumstances in her country and achieving success in securing multiple scholarships from various countries across the globe. Fatima Rizaie and Farida Razaqi are two other Afghan girls who have also been recipients of multiple scholarships from prestigious universities worldwide.

Reports indicate that Fatima Rizaie has accomplished an impressive feat by securing five postgraduate scholarships from various universities in the United States, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Similarly, Farida Razaqi, an Afghan student, has simultaneously been awarded four postgraduate scholarships from renowned institutions such as Harvard, Columbia, the State University of New York (SUNY), and Cornell University. These remarkable young women have shared their experiences, highlighting that gender discrimination has never deterred their determination, and they have seized every opportunity that came their way.