Ahmadi ’17 Finds Calling Through Fulbright Program

August 12, 2020 Caitlin Burns

Ahmadi among a group of women with certificates in hand.

Ahmadi (center, green shirt and red tag) at the Baku American Center in Azerbaijan.

When Zahara Ahmadi ’17 graduated as an International Studies major with a concentration in Middle Eastern and African studies, she imagined a career in diplomacy. 

As one of the first Fulbright English Teaching Assistant award recipients, along with Cliff Long ’17, Ahmadi planned to teach in Azerbaijan for a year before exploring post-graduate studies in international diplomacy. Now, she’s not only completed her Fulbright grant but has also taught elementary and middle school students in Changwon, South Korea for 15 months. In March, she returned home to Northeast Philadelphia due to COVID-19.

“I was planning to come home anyway, but we couldn’t teach the last two weeks at school,” said Ahmadi. “I worked most of the day with the kindergarten students, which is the highest class before graduation. It was hard not to be able to say goodbye to them or have a ceremony to celebrate.”

While working abroad, Ahmadi discovered her true calling: post-conflict reconstruction and development.

“My study abroad experiences have made me more interested in public service, education, and development,” said Ahmadi. “Having worked so hands-on and so closely with minority communities, with young children, with refugee communities, I’ve become more interested in post-conflict reconstruction and development. Studying abroad has helped me realize these goals and figure out ways that I can best give back to these communities I care most about.”

As an undergraduate at Arcadia, Ahmadi also studied Persian in Tajikistan through the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program, and learned Turkish in Istanbul through the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program.

Ahmadi plans to pursue a graduate degree in Engineering so she can work abroad in communities that are beginning reconstruction. She’s currently working on completing program requirements for application to Drexel University.

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