8. Hope Overcomes Survivor’s Guilt
I have a bumpy relationship with hope.

As a middle-schooler in my war-torn country, Afghanistan, I was strangely hopeful – not only for me but for my country – that the bomb blasts and the war would stop one day. When everyone else said it was impossible, I still thought Afghanistan was my future and that I would never have to leave it for good. I saw myself as part of the solution; therefore, I read books, discussed issues and asked questions, remained intellectually curious, and actively fought for gender equality and human rights. My activism and academic record earned me a scholarship to transfer to an international high school in Minnesota and later to Blair Academy in New Jersey. There, I found people who believed in my hopes and helped me get a first-class education so I could make myself and my country better. Life was great.

But in summer 2013, when I returned to Afghanistan to spend my school break with my family, I lost a dear cousin to a bomb blast. He was only a couple of years younger, we had spent our childhoods together, and he too hoped for a better tomorrow. I could not believe that he was taken from us so brutally. I hated that we were all so helpless. For the first time in my life, my hope for a better tomorrow had dried up with every tear that fell from my eyes. I was depressed and lost all confidence that I could change the world.

When I returned to the states that fall, the bombings continued in Afghanistan, and more of my friends were killed. I did not forget my cousin but learned how to live with the pain of loss — if I wanted to survive. It took me several years and a lot of love from my parents, host parents, advisers and therapists to get out of that deep hole of depression. When I was admitted to Bucknell, I promised myself that I would use the opportunity to empower myself so that I could empower others. As I regained hope and confidence, I began seeing my survivor’s guilt as an opportunity to help others more.

With help from my professors, the Bucknell Public Interest Program and the Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund, I realized in 2017 my dream of opening the first Braille library in Kabul for blind kids. On the library’s opening day, I regained a good chunk of the hope I lost in summer 2013. And this past summer, my confidence and motivation to think beyond myself increased even more thanks to an internship with Save the Children that was arranged by Professor Eric Martin, management. I worked in Serbia as a translator, cultural mediator and researcher with immigrant women and separated and unaccompanied children from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. The experience reminded me of how valuable my education is, and that I can be part of a solution to the bigger problems and crises we’re facing not only in Afghanistan, but around the world.

Yasameen Mohammadi ’20 is a managing for sustainability major.