By Collin Atwood
This year there are 125 international students at Springfield College from 44 different countries. Every one of them has their own story and own journey that led them to Alden Street. Some are similar and some are different, but none of them compares to that of Hikmatullah Jamal Yar.
Yar is a first-year student at Springfield majoring in business management. He lived in Kabul, Afghanistan his whole life until he arrived in America about a month ago.
The situation in Afghanistan made the trip to America unimaginably difficult.
On April 13, President Joe Biden announced that all American troops would withdraw from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021. The Taliban released a statement in the middle of April saying that if the original deal was not upheld they would take “every necessary countermeasure.” By May 18, The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General released a report saying that attacks on the government in Afghanistan have increased 37 percent since the same time period a year ago.
July 5 marked the first withdrawment of U.S. troops. By Aug. 6 the Taliban seized the first province. Less than 10 days later, the Afghanistan government was taken over and the Taliban had control over Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan and Yar’s home, after 20 years of war.
To get to Springfield College, Yar had to first leave Afghanistan to collect his student visa due to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul being closed.
“I had to travel to India. That’s what the school suggested me to do,” Yar said.
It wasn’t until the first week in August that Yar found out he would have to travel to another country first. He immediately left and headed to India. With school starting in less than a month, he had to travel to three different countries in a span of three weeks.
Yar arrived in India at about the same time that the Taliban had taken control of their first province in Afghanistan. What was supposed to be a quick stop turned out to be a three week stay alone in a hotel due to the takeover of Kabul.
“I was really worried about my family, especially my brother,” Yar said. “They say that they are okay, but unexpected things happen in my country so we don’t know what the future holds.”
The plan was for Yar to get his visa in India, return home to his family, pack his stuff and say good-bye and then leave for the start of the semester. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to see his family before coming to school or bring any of his belongings.
“My family said that there was no way for me to come back… I wasn’t ready for what happened. I wasn’t expecting that at all,” he said.
Finding out what happened to his home and how he wouldn’t be able to see his family before the school year left him in complete shock.
“I didn’t get a chance to go back and have a proper goodbye. I was totally surprised. Some nights I couldn’t sleep,” Yar said.
Yar only traveled with a couple of shirts and pairs of pants. He didn’t even bring his laptop or any of his school supplies.
“The college gave me a laptop temporarily. Some other people working here gave me some blankets and other stuff because I didn’t have anything,” he said.
Yar arrived at Springfield College on Aug. 27 so he had very little time to get comfortable in a country he had never been to before. He had to get used to the culture and the new teaching styles.
“At first it was a bit of a cultural shock, but I got used to it.”
The unique philosophy at Springfield College is what caught Yar’s interest in the first place. He was interested in the school’s commitment to the spirit, mind and body.
“That’s something we don’t get a chance to do in my country. We mostly focus on the books.”
Although it’s only been a few weeks, Yar is coming to enjoy his time at Springfield College and is pleased with his decision to come here. He has joined intramural teams and is looking to join more clubs in the future.
“I met new people from different backgrounds, different countries and different cultures and that is really important to me,” Yar said.
Hopefully Springfield can act as a place that makes Yar feel at home. He talks to his family a few times a week, but nothing beats seeing them in person. Yar hopes, like the rest of us, that he will be united with family as soon as possible.