Zahidullah Jalali graduated from AUCA in 2008, majoring in International and Comparative Politics. Currently Zahidullah works as an assistant to the Deputy Foreign Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Afghanistan. Zahidullah managed to find some time for us in his busy schedule to share his thoughts and reminisce about AUCA.
Zahid, why did you choose AUCA?
A scholarship made it possible for me to enroll in one of the programs at AUCA. The liberal arts education, experienced instructors, and friendly and free environment contributed to my decision to attend the University. By the way, I am really happy I made this choice, because I was able to accomplish what I wanted.
Was it difficult to leave Afghanistan?
Not particularly. Perhaps it was a little more difficult in the beginning, since it was my first experience away from my family and home.
We have many Afghan students, especially women, studying here at AUCA…
This is true, and I would like to say that the Afghan scholarship fund is a major investment and contribution to the education of Afghanis. It is very generous of AUCA and the scholarship fund to invite Afghan students, particularly women, to study at AUCA. On behalf of my government and my people, I would like to express gratitude to all involved parties, including the Kyrgyz government, for facilitating this process. I hope this project will continue, and the next generation will be able to benefit from an AUCA education.
What difficulties did you face when you first came to Bishkek?
While it was a new country with a new environment it was not strange. The only problem we faced was the language barrier, and it was indeed challenging in the beginning. We did not have an opportunity to learn Russian or Kyrgyz in Afghanistan, so it took us a while to overcome this obstacle. Imagine your landlady coming to your flat, she does not speak English, you do not understand Russian, and there is a guy on the phone translating what we want to say to each other. This sounds comical, but we actually had this experience.
Why did you decide to return to Afghanistan instead of living in a more peaceful country?
That is an interesting question. I should make it clear that I dearly love my country and want to stay here, especially in these difficult times. I was educated for this purpose, and it was my wish to return to my country to serve it with all that I could. It is true that there are challenging problems here, but fleeing is not the solution. I am not a person who is only concerned with my own wellbeing. I feel a huge responsibility to my country and its people.
Now, you are with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs…
Initially it was challenging, since I found myself in a new environment, but now I enjoy my job. Though we have a tough working schedule and long working hours, it is a good experience and I am happy with it. Moreover, I have been interested in foreign affairs for a long time, and my family and friends have always supported me.
How does AUCA’s liberal arts education help you in achieving your goals?
I think AUCA is a place where a student not only attends lectures, but also learns from its free and friendly environment and multicultural atmosphere. I benefited greatly from the knowledge AUCA imparted on me, such as freedom of speech, critical thinking, time management skills, tolerance, and respect for others.
What are your fondest memories of AUCA?
Recalling my days at AUCA, many memories stand out in my mind. However, due to space limitations, I will refrain from recollecting all of them. Perhaps the fondest memory of all is when the Afghan team won first place in several competitions during diversity week.
What do you see as the role of alumni in supporting and promoting AUCA?
I believe alumni play a significant role. It is our responsibility to support AUCA, and to show our dedication to the institution where we were trained.
Is there anyone you would like to thank who has influenced you?
I would like to thank my parents for their constant support, my instructors for teaching and encouraging me, and my friends for their moral support.