This summer, Brenau University student Razia Hussaini plans to fly home to Afghanistan. But she is unsure about making the return trip.
Hussaini, a 22-year-old in The Initiative to Educate Afghan Women, said she is concerned about the recent travel ban announced by President Donald Trump’s administration.
While Afghanistan is not on the list of nations under the ban, the executive order bars travelers from entering the United States for 90 days from Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya.
“I’m concerned about it and I have no idea what will happen if I go back during summer,” Hussaini said. “Who knows? Maybe during summer Afghanistan will be on that list.”
Hussaini is in her second year with the program. She previously studied at Kabul University and the American University of Afghanistan.
The first taste of culture shock came at the airport, when the initiative’s executive director greeted Hussaini and extended his hand. In Afghanistan, women can shake hands with women, but men and women do not, Hussaini said.
“He told me that there are some cultural differences that we should respect, and I understand that I should respect some cultural (aspects) that are different than back in my home,” she said.
Jordan Anderson, Brenau’s director of International Students and Programs, said Hussaini is the only student with the initiative. Brenau typically receives one student per year, and one student graduated last semester.
“It’s beneficial to everyone. It allows a very bright, young woman to come to the United States and get an education that maybe she wouldn’t be able to get in Afghanistan or at least not in the same way that she could get here,” Anderson said. “And it allows us to get to know her and allows our students to get to know someone who has a different perspective from what they might be used to.”
Compared to her studies in Afghanistan, Hussaini said she generally feels more comfortable here and said people are more helpful.
“In Afghanistan, people don’t look at women like they look at a man,” Hussaini said. “I think that’s the difference. Men can go comfortably and easily everywhere, but as a woman, it’s not easy to live in such an environment like Afghanistan.”
Hussaini, who wears a head scarf for religious reasons, still has felt the sting of cultural differences in the United States. She described a time walking around shopping with another friend wearing a head scarf when she approached a woman and her child.
“When she saw us wearing head scarf, she stepped back and she get her son’s hand and stepped back,” Hussaini said.
They both exchanged hellos, but Hussaini said it was the first time someone was “afraid of me only because I’m wearing head scarf.”
“I cover my head, but I do not cover my mind. I have the ability to think and can decide what is good for me and what is good for others,” Hussaini said. “I do respect others that don’t wear head scarf. I expect others to respect me.”
Hussaini said she keeps up with her family through Facebook and Skype, as she plans to return for an internship as a part of the initiative.
“I really love my family, because they are always supportive to me,” she said.
As a business administration student, Hussaini said she would like to work with the United Nations in Afghanistan.