A long time ago I hoped to visit the USA, but I always thought that it was a dream that may or may not come true. During a summer day while I was taking a nap my phone rang and a lady asked, “Are you Seeta?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Who are you?”

“I am calling from the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan,” she said. “You have been nominated to participate in the Edward R. Murrow Program in the USA.”

“Me?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied. “Send me your CV and some information.”

For me it was like a dream for someone to call a girl who is living in a corner of Afghanistan where there still had not been a chance for the women of that province to attend international programs. I did not believe her and asked her to please send me an email so I could have her email address and send her the information.

I told my family that I had been invited to the USA and everyone was surprised.

“How? Do you have to pass a test? Why have you been selected for this program?” they asked.

“I do not know,” I told them. “Maybe they nominated me because I work as female journalist in Farah province.” I was very happy but I was also worried because of our culture. “How will I go?” I wondered.

I had another problem. I did not have a passport and when I applied for one it was crowded and the passport director told me I had to wait for two months. But there was no time to wait, so I tried very hard and got it after one month. The rest of the process went very fast and finally it was departure day. I was very happy to have the opportunity to travel alone. This was a new experience for me and it was to a foreign country!

I made an Afghan friend at the Kabul airport. She was also one of the participants, but in a different program. We started our journey together from Farah to Kabul and Kabul to Dubai. We had a stop in Dubai and at the airport my friend and I got ice cream. It was so delicious. Then we started to search for the place where we could get boarding passes. We searched a lot and finally I asked a man who was Afghan, but it was a good experience because there was no one to ask us why we did not have a man escorting us. Also, there was no concern about a suicide attack or an insurgent attack.

While we waited we read and used the internet and then we started our journey to the USA. When our programs started I met new friends from other countries. I was very happy that a girl from an insecure province could get a chance to visit the United States, thanks to the U.S. embassy and its efforts to encourage the people in my province.

During my speaking engagements at the universities, many American journalists asked how an Afghan woman could work as a journalist in a community like Farah. They told me how brave I was to do this. I also got a chance to talk with my Afghan sister. She came from very far away just to meet me.

After the program in Washington ended, I had some free days, so I decided to visit one of my friends whom I knew from writing for the website. When she came to pick me up I was wondering where she would drop me off to stay, but she had me stay with her at her home on Long Island. She gave me a room with a view of her garden and a river. Everything was so nice there. Even her husband was a good cook and made our meals for us.

Soon, my time in the USA ended and I had to leave. I had a wonderful experience in America and many good memories, but I missed my people. My friends told me to stay and not go back. But I thought to myself that it would be wrong to stay when I promised to help my people in Afghanistan. If I tried to stay illegally in the U.S., the embassy would not trust Afghan women to attend these sorts of programs in the future.

One person told me that there is always a war in Afghanistan. “You may be killed one day,” he said. “You had the opportunity to escape from Afghanistan, but you lost it.”

Other Afghans said the same thing, that I did not use my common sense. They said how every day there are bombs, suicide attacks, and violence against women.

I replied that we are the ones who must stop these things. We should remain in our country to defend it as we can.

Still they say, “If we have the chance to leave, we will never come back.”

But I am happy to return home. I use the new skills I have learned from other journalists, and I had the chance to improve my English. I do not regret coming home again to my country.

By Seeta