One of the most distinctive aspects of the AUCA student body is the significant number of undergraduate students from Afghanistan – making them the largest single group among the international student population in the university. That measure of highest proportionality–makes AUCA a unique higher education institution in the world. However, the presence of Afghan students in AUCA is not only significant for the high numbers, but also for the noticeably strong quality of their academic preparation and goal orientation. T his is possibly a direct outcome of the fact that every single Afghan student admitted to AUCA comes through a rigorous competitive selection process from home, administered by the American Embassy in Kabul – which also fully funds their education at AUCA.
This combination of full-funding, transparent selection process, and the opportunity to earn an American Bachelor’s Degree in a safe and culturally proximal country in the region – makes AUCA a top destination for academically competent and socially active aspiring college students from Afghanistan. Indeed, the university has defined as one of its goals preparation of a new generation of leaders for a new and democratic Central Asia – including Afghanistan.
However, beyond these state divisions, there is an unstated expectation that Afghan students would go back home to Afghanistan upon finishing their sponsored studies at AUCA and help rebuild their war-torn country. Given the significant investment on behalf of the American Government (and taxpayers) that goes into making the study of Afghan students at AUCA possible, such an expectation is not misplaced. However, the reality of “back home” – fragile peace, continued violence, scarcity of meaningful employment opportunities and a society slowly embracing democratic governance after decades of sectarian conflicts and international military campaign – is not necessarily the most inviting environment for young people with a world class education and global mindset honed in the finest traditions of American liberal arts education. Informal conversations with Afghan students suggest that they are often torn between the desire to contribute to their country and to pursue their professional and academic journeys in safer and more secure societies. Unraveling this dilemma – of global preparedness of young citizens and limits to their localized contribution – is at the heart of this proposed project.
This project will seek to explore what Afghan students themselves view as possible pathways for balancing their own life aspirations and their desire to contribute to their motherland.
The VOAS at AUCA is envisioned as a project that will not only bring the unique role of AUCA with regards to creating the next generation of Afghan leaders in the limelight, it willalsobringtotheforethehithertounder-exploredterrainofAfghanstudents’ own views about their roles – thereby offering international development partners new avenues of supporting human capital and nation-building in post-conflict societies. Indeed, the projects’ Co-PI’s view this new initiative as a possible beginning of a new annual tradition for the vibrant Afghan student body at AUCA.