A Hard Decision

The weather was warm, the trees green, the birds singing, the breeze breezing and the flowing stream was making a fantastic sound. I sat in the room where I used to study. But on this summer day, I was drowned in thoughts as I tried to decide about going to the United States. As the days passed that summer, my heart beat faster and faster with both excitement and fear, but I didn’t know how to share my feelings.

My family was very conservative and religious, especially my father, and I knew he did not want me to go to the U.S. Most people in my city are uneducated and very traditional. Everyone totally disagreed with my going to the United States because they believed it was a really bad place, especially for a Muslim girl. My relatives, classmates, and friends asked questions like, “Why does this scholarship office want to select girls only between the ages of 14 and 17? Will they let you return to your family? Will they try to hurt you? Will they let you pray while you are there? Will they treat you as a human?” I was scared to death when I heard these questions, but I tried to act brave and positive instead.

One day my uncle, my father’s brother, came to our house. “I have heard that you are going to U.S. Is that right?”

“Yes,” I replied calmly.

“Don’t you dare do that,” said my uncle.

“But I have tried very hard to get this scholarship,” I said. “I am the only girl who got this scholarship from our whole city for my junior year. I am really proud of myself. It will be a fantastic experience.”

“What? Proud? This is a shame for us,” replied my uncle. “You better not argue with me. Just remember this: if you go to the U.S., you will not be my niece.”

My heart was broken. “Okay, I will not go,” I said hopelessly.

The next day, another uncle, my mother’s brother, came to our house and talked to my older brother, who was 24 years old and the only one supporting me strongly because he was a very wise boy and not only a brother but a good friend to me. My brother knew there were many differences between being educated and uneducated, and he wanted me to study hard and become a wise girl.

“Do you want to send your sister to the U.S. so she will bring back money for you? If so, I will give you as much money as she can bring back,” said my uncle.

“No, uncle, I want her to go to the U.S. not to bring back money, but to continue her education.”

“What the hell is she going to do with education? She is a girl and she is our dignity and it is a big shame for us to send her to the U.S. We cannot tolerate it if people say anything about us. So you better avoid sending her to the U.S. Otherwise we will not have any relation with your family,” said my uncle.

“Okay, we will think about it,” said my brother.

For the first time in my life, I didn’t know what to do. I talked with my mom who strongly supported me because she wanted me to be educated and wise. My mom told me she had faced many difficulties and miseries in her life because she was uneducated. I told my mother to talk to my father and make him understand, but not to bother talking to my uncles because they would never support that decision.

I could not sleep at night. I could not study or work. I was thinking that if I went to United States, what would happen? What if my uncles broke relations with my family, and most importantly, what if my dad got really angry and never spoke to me?

Finally my mom, my brother, and I decided that I should go to the U.S. no matter what happened, because it was a golden opportunity for me since we did not have qualified teachers, books, or other facilities in my school. There was only one teacher in my school who had graduated from high school and the rest studied until 6th or 7th grade.

I had only one more week to be with my family. I was so upset that my dad was not talking to me, and at the same time, I was afraid of having him talk to me. The day I left my home for Kabul, my dad did not know, because I was afraid he would try to stop me. So we did not even say goodbye. I really love my father, but I wanted to continue my education as well. I knew one day he would understand why I made this decision.

It was a kind of dark and a silent afternoon when I arrived at Kabul International Airport to leave for the U.S. We were 40 students, 20 boys and 20 girls from all over Afghanistan. I did not know any of them because all of them were from other cities. Most of my group (the girls) were so happy at the airport. Some girls were crying, talking on phones, and saying goodbye to their families. I had just turned 15 years old and it was my first time leaving my family, but I was neither crying nor happy. I could not talk, cry, or laugh. I couldn’t imagine the place I was going or what would happen in the future.

“Have a good journey,” said my brother. He wanted to shake my hand and kiss my forehead. I just grabbed my suitcase like a stupid girl because I felt so distracted. But in a second, I paid full attention to him and I felt ashamed, left my suitcase and shook and kissed his hand. I said thank you and goodbye to him.

Taking these first steps alone on my journey, I felt lonely, but also pleased. I turned back once to see my brother. He looked so sad. I did not turn back again as I walked into the airport waiting room.

By Angela


  1. Cathy Johnson says:

    Angela, your story is very touching and I hope in the United States that you not only become eduated, but also become wise. I think you will learn to appreciate your Muslim background and homeland more because of your experiences in a very different place–America! I’d like to hear more about your American experience and hope to keep up on this Website. I wish you the best.

  2. Angela,
    I wish you all the very best here in America. I am so glad that you have the support of your brother, who clearly understands how important an education is for you. I wish you much happiness in your studies and many new friends who will help you to feel less lonely in this new land.

  3. Dear Angela,

    I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for you to make this choice, and to leave your family, hometown and country behind to go to an unknown place. However, i’m happy for you cos’ you have made the right decision, no matter how hard it was. I come from Spain but live in UK, and despite i miss home too i do not regret my decision, as it has improved my life. Although our situation is very different,i encourage you to make friends in America and give it a chance!
    Look ahead of you, look to your future, and think on the example that you, your mum and your brother are giving to others in your country…you must feel so proud of them! Please, send them my deep admiration. More than anything else, do what you want to do, as your life is yours and nobody else has the right to decide for you, wish you all the best! xxx Elena

    p.s. Please let us know how is everything going in the United States!

  4. Angela D. says:

    Angela, your story is so inspiring. You are so strong and brave. I really admire your courage and hope that all is going well for you now. I think that you made the right decision and I wish you the best.

  5. Emily D. says:

    Your story is really inspiring! I would not have been brave enough to leave my family behind to come to a different country. I had a hard time leaving my home to go to college in a different city. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been to leave your family and your country and go somewhere completely new. I do not think I could have made the decision you made. I admire you for your courage and strength to make your own decisions. Thank you for sharing your inspirational story. I wish you good luck in everything you do!

  6. Dear Angela,

    This is so inspiring and moving. Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope that the US lived up to all of your hopes. I’m excited to read more of your work!

  7. Angela R. says:

    I realize that you are back now, but your story was very inspiring. You demonstrated a lot of courage in going to an unknown country by yourself at such a young age! I also have a lot of respect for your brother, who stood with you in your decision. We need more Afghan men like him, who realise that society is strong when both men and women are educated. I hope that your uncle and father will be able to see your achievements and that you are bringing honor to them in a different way. May you have all the happiness and success as you move forward in life!

  8. Angelalynn Lopez says:

    That was very courageous. As a traveler I also feel the uncomfortable feelings of an unknown place. Your brother and mother saw a very strong and intelligent person. They wanted to make sure you had a better future for yourself. I do see that both of them love you and wanted to help you make the right choice. By breaking away, you have already began your path to suceess in knowledge and power. I hope that your achievement will help inspire people to positive ideas in the future.

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