My name is Aqela Nussrat, currently based in Bard college in Upstate New York. Home is originally in Afghanistan where I was born as an Afghan, an identity which I never chose for myself. It was given to me and millions of other women and girls. I grew up and spent most of my childhood in Kabul, Afghanistan alongside my parents, who were very committed and dedicated when it came to their kid’s education. One of the driving forces behind this commitment, especially from my mother, comes from her own experiences as a victim of war and conflict. She never had the opportunity to receive the education, and now she envisions her future through her children’s future and wants to dream big.
In August 2021, like my parents, I also tasted how it feels to leave home and loved ones behind. I left everyone and everything behind, finding myself away from home, not knowing what the future holds for me and when I will be able to return back. I spent about 6 months in the different military camps, moving from one to another with a refugee tag as part of my identity; a complicated journey that started from Doha and ended at Bard college, as I have received a scholarship to continue with my studies. I took the opportunity to continue moving forward, as it’s the only reason I left family and friends behind, a future that is unknown, but can be built from scratch.
I will be wrong to deny that I am not missing home and family, but I believe our scars and struggles make us stronger. Transitioning into a new environment and building up new friendships and connections was never easy. I came across the LexRAP team through my ex-roommate whom she had been through the same experience of leaving home, and wanted to introduce me to a community where I can call home. She introduced me to great people in Lexington, where part of me belongs there now. A great community and a very special LexRAP Volunteer, who has been through my ups and downs, and through my craziest experiences in the US, from celebrating my first salary in the US, to driving long hours and staying in the hospital when I had a car accident. They have been playing a critical role during all the time I spent in the US since 2021, and they will forever be great friends, whom I will not forget their kindness and support. Their warm and welcoming attitude has made me feel like I’ve found a home away from home.
I have been very fortunate to find great friends over the past 1.5 years, who have been very supportive in making my way toward greater goals in life. I still hold an uncertain future, I am not sure how my story will end, or when the girls and women in my country will have the chance to live freely, all I know is that “Education will Prevail.” I see myself as pieces of all the places I have been, the people I have met and loved, I stitched together by adventures, meaningful conversations, and new experiences, and I am trying my best to be the best version of myself, and a good friend to the people around me. I am positive that I will find “home” again sooner or later…
Aqela’s family is now safely in Germany, so she is comfortable using her name. Although a full time Bard student, she works part-time with the Friends of American University of Afghanistan, https://friendsofauaf.org/, event planning, speaking at fundraisers in DC, and reaching out to alumni to create a database. LexRAP now works with and supports 8 young Afghan refugees (7 women and 1 man) who escaped from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover in August 2021: Aghawan, Rabia, Aqela, Masoma, Zarina, Samira, Edris and most recently, Zahra.