But My Soul Is In Afghanistan

The situation back in Afghanistan is ever-changing. As of late February, many universities reopened to women under gender-segregated terms. In the weeks that followed, the Afghan Ministry of Education announced that female students above grade six would be permitted to return to schools starting on March 23. But when the day, the Taliban reversed their decision. As of early April, those schools remained closed.

In Atlanta, Shafie, Alizada and their peers are wrapping up their first semester of intensive English studies at Georgia State. They’ve each been designated an academic counselor, and some of them have taken jobs in Patton Dining Hall.

Between working five days a week and taking full course loads, Larsson says the women display an incredible work ethic. They understand that perseverance is the only way to reach their goals. “They want to be doctors and diplomats,” she notes.

The students have more options for majors at Georgia State than at AUW. Alizada won’t pursue journalism and mass communication here because she feels it requires studying in your native language (Dari, for her). She talks instead about medicine and becoming a doctor, like her older brother. Shafie may major in medicine too, pointing out that there are no female doctors in her home province, but she’s also interested in computer science.

They’re slowly and steadily finding their footing and confidence. They can even tell you places to study in peace in the University Library. But the toll is as emotional as it is mental and physical.

They told Nassery they have trouble sleeping at night and that social media is their only way of knowing if their neighborhoods have been bombed. With all there is to worry about — the safety of their family and friends back home, the future of their country and the uncertainty of what they’ll do when January 2023 arrives — they’re also navigating college life and first jobs in a foreign place.

The opportunity to earn a paycheck has eased some of the financial burden. The money raised through Crossley’s GoFundMe efforts, which totaled more than $8,000 and was divided evenly among the six women, has also helped. Bunting and Larsson have helped the students open their own American bank accounts, giving them agency to manage their own finances.

Alizada is careful to express how grateful she is to be safe in Atlanta, for the opportunity to study at Georgia State and for all the support she’s received from people who didn’t even know
her. But she’s gripped by grief for all she’s lost and for the separation from her family and friends, guilt that she was able to leave Afghanistan when others couldn’t and an intense longing for the life she had before Aug. 15, 2021.

Alizada can connect with her family by phone a fair amount, but she constantly worries about their safety and well-being. Her parents and siblings live in fear, she says, and without access to work amid a crippled economy, they are barely scraping by.

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