Arezu, a young Afghan refugee living on the island of Lesvos, Greece, was awarded a scholarship to study in Boston recently.
The 12-year-old girl fled Afghanistan with her family when she was just seven years old. Her mother, Mariam, was eight months pregnant when the family took the dangerous trip from their native northern Afghanistan to Turkey.
When they arrived in Greece, the family lived in the notorious refugee camp Moria, which was known for its overcrowded and what some consider inhumane conditions.
Arezu, who comes from a country where women and girls are facing extreme obstacles to education, is exceptionally eloquent and talented academically.
Afghan refugee learned Greek in one school year, at top of her class
The young refugee, who came to Greece without knowing a word of the language, managed to learn Greek in one school year, and even got the highest grades in her class. She speaks four languages.
She was among the only 34% of school-aged refugee children who have access to education and can attend a secondary school.
“School is good. I love Greek people. But sometimes it is difficult. Some days are good and some are bad,” Arezu stated.
The young Afghan refugee was offered a fully-funded five year scholarship from the International School of Boston after acing the entrance exam and interview.
Arezu’s dream is to become a doctor so that she can help those in need.
“I want to go (to Boston), I want to stand on my own feet. I’m excited and I can’t wait to study and to become a doctor so that I can help others and my family. I want to be a cardiologist or maybe a neurosurgeon,” the girl stated.
Arezu’s passion and drive may come in part from her mother Mariam, who worked in education in Afghanistan. She pushed to have her daughter registered in a school on Lesvos, which was difficult for the refugee family.
Arezu awarded scholarship to school in Boston
Mariam reflected on the difficulties of arriving in a new country as a refugee, stating:
“You must start over again and step by step, people will see your capacities and doors will open for you. Everyone is different. You must make a goal and follow your path and it will be achieved. I’m always on the positive path and this brings the positive people to me.”
The talented girl’s mother Mariam began working as an interpreter almost immediately upon arriving at the Moria camp, and continues her work helping women as an interpreter for victims of gender-based violence.
Arezu and her family are looking forward to the talented girl’s trip to Boston, where she will continue her education.
“We need to think outside the box…because you learn more things outside the box. It’s like a cage, you need to be a free bird,” the young Afghan refugee living in Greece stated.