Date of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Daniel Douglas

Second Advisor

Elise Castillo


This qualitative, phenomenological study was conducted to explore the lived experiences of Afghan women enrolled in higher education institutions in the United States. The objective was to develop an understanding of the participants’ perceptions of the factors that led to their enrolment in higher education and their educational experiences while in Afghanistan compared to the United States. Data were collected through remote interviews with seven participants. Findings of this study show that Afghan students in the United States, like other international students go through a series of integration and adaptation processes. These processes might take some longer than the others to get used to a new academic climate. The findings of this study also reveal that studying in the United States, Afghan students experienced a range of academic challenges (i.e., teaching methodologies, educational practices, language, class participation, etc.). They were also confronted with non-academic challenges (i.e., social, cultural, and psychological) that exacerbated their academic challenges in the United States. Despite the challenges, their education has been rewarding in the United States.

Afghanistan can be a vicious and cruel country to live in, especially for women and young girls. Most Afghan girls were not allowed to attend school even during the twenty years after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, and of those who did, only about a handful of them attended long enough to graduate. It was common for most girls to be forced out of attending school - many girls have been attacked and some have even been doused with acid. Now that the Taliban are back in power, Afghan women have already lost the minimal human rights they have had during the years 2001 to 2021.

To attend school as a woman in a country like Afghanistan takes lots of courage. Being an Afghan woman who was born and raised in Afghanistan for seventeen years, I have first-hand experience of how challenging it is to simply live in Afghanistan let alone getting an education. Afghan women have experienced harsh learning conditions, and the few who get a chance to study abroad have already gone through rough challenges in Afghanistan. Once they arrive in the United States, they are bewildered by how learning and education is valued in the western countries. They go through culture shock, academic challenges, psychological issues, social imbalance, and much more but, because they have seen worse circumstances and times when they were denied their universal right to getting an education, they understand that studying in the United States is an opportunity not many can have. They are aware that their fellow classmates are not even allowed to go to school. Therefore, when my research participants reflect on their educational journey in the United States as overall positive, they mean it could be way worse. It is not to disregard the countless challenges they go through while in the United States and the reality that it could be alleviated by thoughtful policies and practices by the study abroad programs and higher education policy makers.


Senior project completed at Trinity College, Hartford CT for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Educational Studies.