Transforming challenges into opportunities


SUMMARY: Huda and Shamsuddin, graduate students at JMU from Afghanistan, overcame challenges in education and adjusting to life in the U.S. Both aspire to use their education to bring positive change to their home country and world.

Meet Huda and Shamsuddin, two graduate students at JMU, whose stories of resilience and determination are examples of courage and aspiration.

Huda Attaey is a graduate student from Afghanistan, studying Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication (WRTC) at JMU. Coming from a country, where opportunities for women are limited, Huda knew that pursuing higher education would be a challenge. She refused to let obstacles define her path. Currently, in her home country, women are no longer allowed to attend secondary school or college. She completed a bachelor’s degree in Business followed by a year of graduate education in Journalism.  

HudaHuda grew up in a well-educated family who always supported and encouraged her quest for education. She hopes to support her younger sister in same way. "I really want her to have the best education opportunities," she says, emphasizing the importance of education and empowerment for women. Huda is enjoying her time at JMU. She likes JMU’s environment, its resources, the practical experience, and the WRTC faculty and her cohort. 

Shamsuddin Amin, is another graduate student from Afghanistan. He is studying Public Administration. Shamsuddin has faced challenges and triumphs throughout his life journey. He experienced the hardships of financial instability and political turmoil from a young age. Despite this, Shamsuddin's upbringing, shaped by his grandfather's wisdom and education, inspired his interest in political science and his hard work. Before coming to JMU Shamsuddin earned a bachelor's degree in International and Comparative Politics and a master's degree in Politics and Security.  Shams

Huda and Shamsuddin both found their first few months in the U.S. to be challenging. Many things in the U.S. are different from what they experienced at their previous universities. Life in Harrisonburg is quite different than what they experienced in Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan. For example, adjusting to new platforms like Canvas, navigating differences in the way classes are taught, faculty-student interactions, and academic expectations compared to their previous universities. In Harrisonburg, they needed to quickly learn how to lease an apartment, deal with transportation, shopping, make healthcare appointments, as well as deal a wide range of culture differences. However, they both find inspiration in the friendly communities of JMU and Harrisonburg. They recall encounters with locals who helped them. "I was surprised by how friendly people in Harrisonburg are," Shamsuddin reflects. "I've met people who have gone out of their way to help me, despite our differences."

Huda and Shamsuddin are committed to using their education to create positive change in their home country and world, whether through advocacy, community engagement, or social entrepreneurship. After graduating from JMU, Shamsuddin plans to pursue a doctoral degree and then work in a non-profit organization that focuses on conflict resolution, human rights promotion, or the empowerment of women. "No one wants to be away from home," Shamsuddin said. "Once I have the opportunity, I'll go back and advocate for and help on the development of my country." Shamsuddin adds. 

After grad school, Huda hopes to work for a non-profit organization to help people. She also hopes to be able to visit her family, whom she hasn’t seen in years.

Huda and Shamsuddins’ stories remind us that with determination and hard work, anything is possible.

Back to Top

by Dardanë Halimi

Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Last Updated: Thursday, May 2, 2024

Related Articles