Video calling from the room she shares with six of her fellow female classmates at a U.S. base currently housing tens of thousands of refugees, Zarina shares a bit about herself and her time at the American University of Afghanistan. Zarina came to AUAF to receive a world-class education and accompany her older sister returning to school after recovering from injuries caused by the 2016 complex terrorist attack on the university’s campus.
The deadly 2016 terrorist attack at AUAF killed fifteen, injured over fifty more, and left the university partially destroyed and closed for six months. Zarina’s sister survived the horrific attack by jumping out of the second story of a building. Although miraculously alive, she suffered from numerous deadly shrapnel shells embedded throughout her face and body. To give her sister the best chance of a full recovery, a family friend took her to a hospital in the United States. Although she had physically recovered, her sister was initially too frightened and traumatized to return to AUAF. However, Zarina and their mother ensured that she did not give up on her education. Although Zarina had been applying to universities with a medical and biology focus, she decided to join her sister at the American University of Afghanistan that Fall to help her sister feel safe returning. Together, as sisters, they returned to the campus, proving that even after unimaginable terror and trauma, education would prevail.
Although a difficult decision, Zarina speaks quite fondly of her experience at AUAF and felt it was essential to be there for her sister as she returned to where she was so brutally attacked. Zarina and her sister would arrive and leave campus together, and Zarina would check in on her sister throughout the day. During her time on campus, when she was not attending class or studying, Zarina worked as an English teacher to help pay her AUAF tuition costs. She quickly grew quite fond of teaching and has even thought about becoming a college professor. Ultimately, she said, “I want to write about and share my experiences with the next generation.”
“Whenever I have been feeling hopeless, something will happen to offer even a sliver of hope — just enough to keep me pushing onward.”
In the meantime, Zarina and her classmates at the U.S. base have been continuing their classes online and are excited to attend Bard University next semester, which has partnered with AUAF to admit Afghan students and refugees. Until recently, when FAUAF provided them with SIM cards and mobile data, Zarina and her fellow AUAF classmates at the base had been attending class and conducting their schoolwork in the hallways and stairwells of the U.S. base, in attempts to capture even the weakest Wi-Fi signal. Between young children playing and refugees calling friends and relatives, focusing on courses with small patches of communal Wi-Fi has been quite a challenge. The girls remain dedicated to their studies and maintaining good grades despite this.
Zarina currently faces a world of unknowns without the security of her country, family, or friends. However, she’s excellent at finding the positive in every situation, saying, “whenever I have been feeling hopeless, something will happen to offer even a sliver of hope — just enough to keep me pushing onward.” Despite everything, Zarina remains hopeful for Afghanistan. She knows of the incredibly bright individuals that have come out of Afghanistan these last few decades, and she has faith that they will come together for the sake of their country and Afghans. “When you have the chance to do something good,” Zarina states, “what is stopping you?” She, her sister, and their fellow AUAF classmates, brave on in their new realities with this mantra close at heart.