Golf became my main distraction from the issues plaguing my life. After only a year of practice, we had the national team competition to select l female golfers who would travel to Bangladesh to participate in the tournament. I was keen to focus on my golf practice and try my best to be awarded this opportunity. I knew only the longest and straightest golf shot would be acceptable. During the weekly practice everyone wanted to be the one to win and talked about the trip with great excitement. I usually looked around and smiled at my teammates, but I was drowning in thoughts that I wasn’t going to achieve this opportunity. I was the one who was the most overwhelmed with tons of issues. The moment I would grip the golf club to practice my shot, hesitation and fear would appear in front of my eyes. I often missed my shot and was consumed by internal conflicting thoughts.

Given my personal issues, I was not optimistic I would be allowed to leave the country. After several weeks, the day of the competition arrived. Our practice field was the football stadium in Herat city. With hope as well as fear, I participated in the competition. All female players including myself were wearing long clothes and had scarves around their heads. The weather was very hot and sunny. I was sweating and getting thirsty. I was worried about whether I could hit the shot. I was not confident about my clothes, especially because I had my male friends around me. I was sure everyone noticed me. I was worried if my clothes were too tight and that my scarf was short. While I was getting ready to practice swings, my scarf was falling in front of my face and that was a huge distraction.

With many distractions and after a few pre-swings, I hit the shot. I saw everyone around start clapping for me. I took a deep breath as the competition continued. According to my team manager it was the best one, but still I had little hope. Days passed and I didn’t hear any news about the results of the competition. Then, one day I received a call from my team manager. He informed me that I was selected as a national player to participate in the golf tournament in Bangladesh! I could not believe it! Many times I asked myself if I am dreaming! I was very excited and told my sister about it. She promised to help me and she secretly arranged my travel without my dad knowing about it. She told him that I was going to my older sister for a couple of weeks. Secretly, I packed my luggage, left home and went to the airport with my team manager. I was scared. What if someone knew about my plan, and came to the airport to stop me?

Fortunately, I arrived safely in Bangladesh and participated in the tournament for 15 days. During my trip, I could see the value of freedom. I was very interested in communicating with my golf teammates. All female and male golfers were able to be good friends there. In Herat it is shameful for a girl to communicate and build a friendship with a boy. In Bangladesh, I did not experience any of those cultural norms. While at the competition, I had the courage to ask if I had an opportunity to go to college in Bangladesh. The answer was yes! I could apply to attend the Asian University for Women. I went back to Kabul, Afghanistan, stayed one more day in Kabul and researched the BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee)which helps fund scholarships for the Asian University for Women.

Within one day, I filled out the application and submitted it to BRAC and quickly flew back to Herat. Weeks went by and I totally forgot about my application to the Asian University for Women. I did not have an internet connection to check my emails. One amazing day, I received a call from the BRAC organization that my application was shortlisted. It was such amazing and unbelievable news. I could not imagine how it was possible to receive this opportunity.

I did not have easy access to the internet. Therefore, I would frequently walk to an internet club (which was almost 30 mins away from my home) to check my emails. After a few months, I received an email inviting me to participate in the AUW placement exam. I had no idea what the exam would be like or have any hope of passing the exam. I had learned basic English in school and had taken a few English courses at a center during school time, but I was not confident that I would do well in reading, writing and math. I tried to seek help from math and English teachers to prepared for the exam. The exam day finally arrived and I was so nervous. There were 18 girls including me. All questions were in English. I tried my best to answer every question. But, I was not confident at all.

After a few months, I checked my email. I was so shocked to learn that I was the only one out of the 18 selected from Herat to receive the AUW full scholarship! I could not believe it and had to reread the email again and again to make sure I read it correctly. Sadly, I could not share my happiness with my family. It was difficult to explain to them the value of this achievement and how much my dreams meant to me. I stayed silent. Inside, I knew it was time to leave my family, my parents, my city, my childhood and memories. I was going on a journey and I did not know where it would take me.

I did not know that one golf shot would change my entire life. I call that golf shot the turning point of my life. It truly was sports and education that built my path toward success when I had no hope!. Even though fear and depression overwhelmed me again and again, my determination, self-confidence, and my motivation opened the gate toward success. My inner talents started blooming and I became more and more able to imagine my goals and dreams coming true.

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