Student Success Story: Fighting Fear – Nuria’s Story
July 24, 2021
Nuria knows fear. She also knows how to push through it.
She was seven years old when the Taliban invaded her hometown of Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, to kill her prominent family and other Uzbek people. They escaped to Uzbekistan, but the Taliban destroyed her childhood home. Still, Nuria knew she was lucky.
“It was scary,” she recalled, saying that her family especially feared for the safety of her two older sisters.
Once settled in Uzbekistan, where a brother-in-law ran a successful business that spanned Central Asia, Nuria’s parents sent her to a private school in Moscow when she was 11 years old, accompanied by one of her brothers. Their schools were better, Nuria said, and her brother decided that she should become a doctor.
When her brother did not come home from the market one day, she knew something was wrong. The Russian mafia, thinking her brother was wealthy because of their brother-in-law, kidnapped him. Her family sold everything to pay the ransom. Her brother was never released and has never been found.
Nuria returned to Uzbekistan soon after because of her brother’s disappearance, but her family had changed. Her parents, traumatized by her brother’s kidnapping, ignored her education. Nuria enrolled herself in high school and graduated at age 15 (the equivalent of ninth grade in the United States). She wanted to enroll in college but was unable to do so because she did not have an Uzbek visa.
When she and her sister had the opportunity to move to the United States in 2010 through an international nonprofit organization, she was ready. Her family, however, was unwilling to let their two single daughters relocate to America.
“I was so mad,” she said. After several intense family meetings and Nuria threatening to move out and live alone, they relented. Nuria and her sister relocated to Missouri, where they stayed just three months.
Everything was scary and different in the United States – the skin colors, the sounds, the buildings. When her sister fell ill, their case manager ignored them. Still, they were about to start work at a local Starbucks when they discovered an Afghan expat community, whose connections led to an invitation to move to Fairfax County, Virginia, that winter.
Virginia, Nuria and her sister discovered, was quite different than Missouri. They found work quickly at Macy’s in Tyson’s Corner. Within a year Nuria was promoted to counter manager. She and her sister rented their own apartment in McLean. They were making friends and saving money. Life was good.
“I was so happy,” she said, “but it was difficult. First time working, new people. It was all about selling and I was really good.”
In 2013 she flew back to Afghanistan to marry a man selected for her by her family.
“It was a new experience, and I was a simple girl,” she admitted. Her family forbade her from talking or flirting with men, and she met her future husband for the first time when she arrived in Afghanistan for their wedding. Culturally, she said, she had to say yes to the marriage.
After the wedding, Nuria returned to Virginia, newly pregnant, to begin her new husband’s visa process. Other than her sister living nearby, Nuria had no social support. She had resigned from her job and moved out of her apartment before returning to Afghanistan, so she was unemployed and living in a basement apartment.
Her challenges intensified. Her doctor declared her pregnancy high risk and Nuria did not know how to apply for services and support. She was hospitalized during her fifth month of pregnancy and throughout her baby son’s fragile birth one month later. Her son remained in the hospital neonatal intensive care unit for another four months while Nuria visited him every day.
Still, Nuria persisted. She found work and received her citizenship in 2016. Her husband arrived when their son was three years old. Living as a family was difficult. Now, Nuria stopped working to raise their son. She and her husband viewed almost everything differently. She was unhappy.
Then, a Computer CORE flyer in a family services center started her on a new life path. After lots of urging from CORE’s Community Outreach and Student Success Manager Nagia Kurabi, Nuria finally joined CORE. She enrolled in a Microsoft Word class just before the pandemic started, then continued to study Excel, PowerPoint, and SharePoint.
Executive Director Donna Walker James noticed Nuria’s drive. When she could hire students as interns, Nuria “was the first student who showed up ready to work.”
Nuria accepted a three month contract with Computer CORE and continued to work on various projects, learning everything she could. Eventually they offered her a position as Operations Associate.
“Nuria has never stopped learning, achieving, and making herself invaluable,” Donna continued. “She speaks Uzbek, Russian, English, Dari, Urdu/Hindi, Turkish and wants to learn Spanish. Her language acquisition is just one of the indicators of her drive and ambition for a better life.”
Nuria and her husband separated. Their son is now six years old.
Today she is learning to fix computers and plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in internet technology.
“Computer CORE gave me the confidence that I can do this and that I can learn,” Nuria said. “The door is always open for who wants to learn. I’m so thankful and grateful to them.”