A few months ago, Homayoon wrote on our Facebook page:
Despite past disappointments, Homayoon says he will try again to achieve a higher TOEFL score and apply for scholarships. He writes in with this explanation of why he hopes to study in the U.S., the challenges he has faced, and what he plans to do differently this time around:
On learning English
Homayoon says his ambition to learn English was kindled early, but the conflicts in Afghanistan got in the way. He moved a lot as a child to escape violence – first from Kabul to Nangarhar during the civil war, back to Kabul during the Taliban regime, then again to Nangarhar to escape the U.S. attacks after 9/11, and finally back to Kabul again for his senior year of high school. Though he has continued studying English when he can, Homayoon says he knows he’s not at the level he could be, or needs to be.
When the civil war or Mujaheddin war started in Kabul in around 1992 – 3, our family moved back to Nangarhar, which was a little secure than Kabul city. After we managed to restart our normal life there, I had to continue my school. In the eastern provinces in Afghanistan, almost all the residents speak Pashto, so education is taught in the Pashto language. That was a big challenge for a native Dari speaker who was just about 8 or 9 years old.
In seventh grade, I used to watch and play volleyball in the Ariana airline office yard, which was located not so far from our house. Watching the airline’s international pilots play volleyball and speak English with each other, I was inspired and got interested to learn English. It was the starting point for my English learning.
After the Taliban took control of nearly all Afghanistan provinces, we continued to live in Nangarhar and the saddest news for me was that I had almost no opportunity to learn English again until after the regime ended.
When I got 510 in TOEFL test and 4.0 in writing skill in March 2010, I was discouraged because I realized that most of colleges and universities in the U.S. require more than 550. I decided to apply for Fulbright, and I have heard from some of my friends that it is very competitive and needs great communication and writing skills. Writing essays like the personal statement, statement of purpose, and some specific types of essays and more important of all its interviews that need extraordinary communication skill to present yourself as best and competent as you can.
In developed countries, young people my age are authors, inventors and have big businesses, but unfortunately, due to decades of war and poverty in our country and many other personal weaknesses, I cannot even write a good college essay.
On deciding to pursue an MBA
Homayoon went to university at Kabul University for pharmaceutical studies. He graduated in 2006 and says he quickly found that jobs in the industry were scarce. His pursuit of English learning ultimately helped him find a position in the Pharmaceutical Department of the Ministry of Public Health, and that job pushed him to seek opportunities to further his education.
We know that a post-conflict country not only lacks infrastructural and institutional resources but also it lacks human capacity and resources as well. Poor management, poor human capacity in the pharmaceutical department, and very low salary (around $60/month) on the one hand, and having the responsibility to support my family on the other hand pushed me to boost my English knowledge in order to find a better opportunity in the private sector or the international NGOs operating in Afghanistan.
I worked more than a year in the pharmaceutical department. Luckily, I found a job as a translator in a private media company, and up to now I have worked in several governmental and nongovernmental organizations in different administrative, management and translation capacities.
The idea to learn about management and administration was injected in my mind when I worked in and experienced poor management environments in our governmental administrations.
For the first time when I was in the MoPH, I observed that management is something essential for any field – any type of organization requires management. When I got disappointed in the fact that there are very few opportunities for pharmacists in our country, I decided to build and develop a career in business administration. In a post-conflict country where only connections and relations dominate country’s administrative system, an impartial person who does not have any political connection with parties must have enough knowledge of administration and management.
Since I graduated from university and throughout my career in last five years, I have done research and surfed the internet to find a better place for my Master’s degree. I found US study as the top, best and first option. Many academic lectures of U.S. universities that I watched on YouTube and American movies describe that studying in U.S. is a kind of smart investment on one’s academic education. The quality of education in the United States is much higher compare to the rest of the world.
That inspiration and strong feeling, which made me want to study in U.S., got strength in my mind from the time I was studying in a preparation class for the TOEFL. When I was watching American movies, reading articles of VOA’s Special English, and reading practice passages for the TOEFL test, it taught me a lot about American culture and life in America.
On what he needs to do differently to succeed
Homayoon says his failure to reach his academic goals is partly due to the responsibility he has to his family – as the only family member currently working, he must support his mother, sisters and brothers. However, he also admits that in the past he has not worked hard enough and has not has the self-confidence to succeed.
After facing different challenges, I realized that the root of all disadvantages in my life is going back to my poor efforts in my past life. Once a friend of mine from Thailand told me that if you want success, NEVER GIVE UP. These three words somehow changed my life. It means if I had tried a lot, I would have achieved something but I did not try and work hard.
As I personally observe myself, I had done too little to reach to my academic goals. After experiencing different people and different environment, I confess that whether you are in the U.S., Europe, Asia or any part of the world, if you are not a hard worker then accept the loss and don’t expect much. I think by generating and boosting self-confidence in oneself, students can achieve their academic goals under any hard time. Hard work, confronting tough situations and putting a bit of extra pressure on your self could lead you toward success; this is what I learned during the years of efforts to reach to my goals.
“If you don’t, who? If not now, when?” is a wonderful saying that encouraged me to open a new window and set achievable goals for obtaining my Master’s degree. For me, I decided this time that more than anything else, I will put my all efforts together on TOEFL and then on how to get admission for a Master’s program, how to get a scholarship and how to plan, manage and implement these promises which I made to myself.
One way that this time is different as I mentioned before that I will put all my efforts together, will work hard, will focus only and only on this, and will go ahead step by step, thoughtfully and carefully. In addition, as the last and crucial thing, I will stick to my promises and try my best to manage my TIME.
Studying in the U.S. is one of my dreams. If it comes true then I would be grateful to God and it will be the biggest achievements in my life. If not the U.S., then at least I will study in India or somewhere else in order to keep the promises that I made with myself.
Are you overcoming challenges to study in the US? Do you have advice to pass along for others? Share your story in the comments or using the form below.