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She’s a Long Way from Home

Roya Mohammadi ’10 of Afghanistan is not only the first in her family to attend college but the first in her tribe to do so as well.

Twenty-year-old Roya Mohammadi ’10 has come a long way to attend Smith, both literally and figuratively. For a young Afghan woman living in Kabul, freedom and choices are very limited, and finding a way to leave home, family and community was difficult.

Fortunately, with help from her fiancé, who championed her cause with her family, Mohammadi found that her determination to pursue an international education proved stronger than the limitations facing her. In 2004 she enrolled in the Armand Hammer United World College in Montezuma, New Mexico, a two-year, pre-university residential school for international students, and while she was there she had a chance to visit the Smith campus. “I really loved it,” she says, “and I heard a lot of good things about it from my classmates at United World College. So I decided to apply.”

One of six children, Mohammadi is not only the first in her family to attend college, but the first in her tribe to do so as well. “My family didn’t want me to go to the U.S., but my fiancé is a really good man and he convinced them to let me come. The only way they would agree to it is if I got engaged; my family thought if I got engaged it would be possible for me to leave the country.”

During the years of the Taliban regime, women were not allowed to study or work. Mohammadi briefly attended an underground school until that became too dangerous and expensive; she then took a risk and began teaching Persian and the Koran to children inside her home in order to raise money for her education and her family. When the Taliban fell, Mohammadi was one of the first women who dared to teach outside of the home. Eventually she was awarded a scholarship to the United World College in New Mexico.

Mohammadi is interested in studying economics and international relations while at Smith. “I would like to run my own company someday,” she says. “I really want this future. Things in Afghanistan are very different than in the U.S. It’s really hard to be there, to be a woman there. I really wish when I return to Afghanistan that the situation will be different, but I don’t know.”

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