Please note: some details have been changed to protect the identity of “Maryam”

Continuing her education was something Maryam was not willing to sacrifice. With the help of Fulbright, Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute, and AUAF, Maryam left behind her home country of Afghanistan, her family, and everything she knew.  Although unimaginably traumatic, she said leaving Afghanistan was necessary because “the best way to become a leader is through education.” This strong belief has driven her to become the extraordinary woman she is today.

Maryam’s unforgettable journey from Afghanistan to the US began in late July 2021 when it became clear that the Taliban would take control of her hometown. To protect the safety of her and her family, whose lives were in danger because everyone in town knew she attended AUAF, Maryam and her husband packed their bags and headed to Kabul on August 2nd. The next day, a neighbor’s house was bombed, and her husband’s brother, cousin, and younger daughter were killed. After this horrific attack, Maryam and her husband moved numerous times to escape the violence. After spending all their savings on safe places to stay, Maryam and her husband finally received US visas.

At last, the pair were able to travel to Kabul, evacuate to Pakistan, and eventually arrive safely in the United States. Maryam said, “leaving was one of the hardest days of my life. I felt as though I left my soul behind and just brought a broken body with me.”

Currently, Maryam is enjoying the calmness of her new university in the Midwest. After a traumatic and stressful few months, the peace of her new environment has helped her focus on her studies and well-being.  Although Maryam forced herself to set aside all fears and emotions to focus every ounce of her energy on evacuation, she now experiences frightening flashbacks of violence, nightmares about her family’s safety, and envisions herself lying in a bed full of shattered glass.

For the first time in her life, mental health care is now available to Maryam, and she has sought solace from counseling. The community of which she is now a member has provided not only a safe haven but also a stimulating environment for her to continue her education.

Maryam, a Fulbright scholar with a volume of accomplishments, has a joint AUAF and Stanford Law degree, a master’s degree in Law from a university in Europe and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Women and Gender Studies at a university in the US. Although her situation has changed entirely, she refuses to let circumstances get in the way of her goal of becoming a college professor, scholar, and writer– raising awareness to issues she is passionate about while creating an army of empowered leaders.

Because of students such as Maryam, education will prevail.