My final semester at the Asian University in Bangladesh was the most hectic semester ever. I was worried about everything – studies, exams and my next journey. I did not know where I would go after graduation. I could not focus on studies, plans or my life. My mind was not in my control any more. This unexpected fear brought a dark cloud on the sunny sky of my inner world. The uncertain journey after graduation was adding to my stress and anxiety. I was not ready for this big change. I did not have a clear path at all. Anytime I tried to imagine going back to Afghanistan, it was not possible. I was afraid to go back and deal with all the family issues I left years ago.

Unfortunately, my dad was no longer alive. My family situation was worse than before, both financially and emotionally. I could not believe that my final semester was bringing me such extreme anxiety. All the nightmares I left behind in Afghanistan came back in my thoughts and dreams. Day by day my mental situation got worse and I could not find any solution.

One day, I thought of approaching my professor, who was a mentor and a father to me. I felt grateful to share my concern with him during his office hours. His advice gave me hope. I told him everything about my journey. I told him I could not focus on studies at all. He understood my concerns about where I should go next and what I would do. He told me, “Shagufa, do not be worried. The universe brought you to Bangladesh, it will take you somewhere else. Try to see your future as bright as you can.” He advised me to keep applying for international opportunities. This made me feel stronger and more hopeful.

I had his powerful words in my mind during my daily routines. When I was free in the classroom or library, I imagined where I would be after graduation. The image of my future was always the same. I pictured myself as a very happy and successful young woman who would be a leader and a change-maker for the lives of many girls. In my heart. I felt motivated by these images. In real life, I was not confident.

Every day I went to the library and kept studying and applying for post-graduate programs and fellowships. I still left the library at 12am every night and ran to my bed. As soon as I was there, I would look out the window at the lights of other houses. Then my imaginary future would appear in my mind. Indeed, I could feel my tomorrow becoming brighter and see myself becoming stronger.

The final exams were getting closer and I was struggling to keep my focus. Every day, I was receiving rejection upon rejection of my applications. It was painful and heartbreaking. I felt the tough days would never end. The fear of rejection was melting my heart.

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