Life is like a river. Sometimes it is rough, and other times, calm. We are all on a journey and do not know where the river will lead us. Since life offers no guarantees and we will not know whether our decision is wrong until we have made it, I believe we should take the risk and not be paralyzed by fear. Taking action is better than going nowhere. Yes, one wrong turn might get us lost. However, it also could also lead us to opportunities.

I took a big risk in 2006 when I was seventeen. I won a scholarship to study in the United States. When I was selected, my parents were in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj. When they returned, I told them I had been selected for the program. From the beginning, my mom disagreed with me about going overseas, because she was not sure I was old enough to go alone. My dad said: “If you go and something bad happens to you, I am not responsible for it.” My siblings also did not support me. I felt alone. I had to convince my family that going to America would be good for my future.

I knew I was taking a big risk, because I did not know with whom I would live and what would happen to me. But it was also risky for my family. The Taliban are opposed to education for women. If the Taliban discovered that I was going to America, they would harm my family. There was also the possibility that I would not be accepted in Afghan society when I returned from America. I was afraid people would reject me when I got home.

I talked to some girls and boys who were in this program. They told me about their experiences and problems that they had faced. I came home and wrote all the advantages and disadvantages of my decision. For example, during that time I was to be in America, I would miss the college entrance exam in Afghanistan that is necessary to pass in order to go to college. However, by going to the United States, I might get another chance to complete my higher education abroad. I also did not want to miss the opportunity of traveling abroad and meeting new people, as I might not have this chance again.

Probably the biggest reason I wanted to take the risk was to show my family and my people that a woman can do more than take care of children. And that she can travel alone. This in turn was going to win me my independence and respect from others.

After much persuasion, my family decided to support me. However, I would be responsible for what might happen to me. I was happy to accept the responsibility for myself. For the first time in my life I went miles away from home. I lived with people from different cultures who I did not even know. I studied in a co-educational school, which I had never done before. I also experienced many other new things.

Now I am very glad that I took the risk that enabled me to understand that nothing is impossible in this huge world, and that when we can dream it, we can achieve it. We just need to be brave and make the choices. If I compare the Marzia I was before accepting the responsibility and taking the risk, I see that she is not the same person. I am a person with better ideas and more confidence.

By Marzia