When I was 15 years old I received a scholarship to attend a year of high school in the United States. I had to leave my family and my comfort zone.

I couldn’t imagine the place I was going or what would happen to me. It was very difficult for me to leave my family and my home for a strange country. My family was worried about me and did not agree with me going to the United States, but they allowed me to go.

This one year gave me a broader outlook on the world and changed my life. I believe that the unique blend of a new experience, and distance from what was familiar and friendly made me a stronger woman.

During my year in the United States, I learned different ideas about how to define a comfortable life. These new ideas are helpful when I consider positive changes for my country’s future. Furthermore, my academic journey helped me to develop and strengthen leadership and communication skills. I also learned about team work and mentoring.

Most important, I became serious about completing a higher education. Before going to the United States, I did not expect to continue my education after high school. Most girls, including me, thought that when you have a nice family and a nice house, you are comfortable and have everything you need. But after a year in the United States, I saw the importance of having an advanced education.

I discovered that women who go to college can be as active and smart as men. I realized that I was wrong about my opinion of what comfort means. Comfort to me now means a nice home, safety, and more education. I learned that by helping others I help myself gain peace of mind, which makes me happy.

I also learned that if Afghans want to live peacefully, we must bring peace to our country. Afghanistan needs potential Afghan leaders and skillful Afghan policymakers to rescue the country from internal conflicts. Skillful leaders will help rebuild the destroyed society, deal with the economic situation, raise the standard of living, and develop a good and effective education system.

Afghanistan also needs to establish efficient regional and international relations and allow women to participate in their community. In order to bring all these changes, future Afghan leaders must have an education with a broad, global understanding.

My year spent out of my comfort zone made me stronger, wiser, and braver to fight against the current life women have in Afghanistan. I am now taking leadership classes and working hard to make my ideas a reality. By fulfilling my dreams I can increase my prospects for a better and more rewarding professional career, and will help the next Afghan generation.

We have a proverb: “When a man is educated only one person is educated, but when a woman is educated the whole family is educated.” I am grateful for the opportunity to help my fellow Afghans, especially the women!

By Angela