My name is Fatima Zuhal Qasimi and I am a recent graduate from the Biological Sciences program offered by the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG). I was born and raised in Afghanistan, where women and girls over 12 years old are barred from getting an education, since the Taliban took over Afghanistan on August 15, 2021. When I came to the United States, I graduated high school on an accelerated track. So in just three years, I started taking classes at Montgomery College (MC), before transferring to UMCP’s Biological Science program offered at USG.
In the beginning, I admittedly did not know much about USG. I first heard about the USG campus from my counselor at Montgomery College and ultimately decided to attend because the campus was very diverse, the class sizes were small (so you get a more one-on-one experience with your professors), and it was a very convenient commute for me. I also found USG to be a place of opportunity, where you have the chance to improve your professional skills and knowledge.
On campus, I wanted to be involved while I was working toward my bachelor’s degree, and so for the 2021-2022 academic year, I served as the USG Student Council President. I ran for this position because I love working with the community. Considering the variety of majors and institutions, it was important to me to build cohesion and ensure everyone’s voice is heard. I wanted to listen to the students who had challenges and be an advocate for them. I also want to create a sense of togetherness, and a positive support system so everyone feels motivated to be included.
My future career goal is to become an optometrist. Growing up, I saw my own family in Afghanistan suffer from eye diseases that went undiagnosed and untreated due to a lack of professionals in the field of optometry. I have wanted to become a doctor since I was very young and now, more specifically, I want to become an eye doctor. I think being able to help people see and read is very impactful. To prepare for optometry school and my career, I have been working at MyEyeDr in Bethesda.