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2012 June 11 - 12:00 am

STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Afghan Native Graduates From Wyoming CC

AP Photo/The Casper Star-Tribune, Alan Rogers

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Zohal Manzoor heard about Casper College in Kabul, Afghanistan, while working at the Afghanistan PEACE Project, an organization rebuilding the country’s agricultural system. A colleague’s son recommended Casper from his experience as a student there.

While planning to study in the U.S., she at first had considered large colleges. But she decided a smaller school would give her a better chance to familiarize herself with American culture and language. Manzoor took her first Casper College class in the summer of 2010 and donned her cap and gown for commencement last month.

“At first I was nervous because of the language and culture,” Manzoor said. “But once I was here ... I felt at home again.”

Though quiet at first, she made many friends with her constant smile and sense of humor, according to Alison McNulty, registrar and international student adviser.

“She fits right in,” McNulty said. “She’s just a beautiful person inside and out, and that’s what you see.”

McNulty said graduating in two years is rare even for local students, but quite impressive for someone still bridging the language gap. Considerable language differences even extend into math, so Manzoor took basic courses in English and math before earning college credit in those subjects.

Slang, colloquialisms and subtleties are the toughest parts of a language to learn. Manzoor’s frequent blank looks gradually turned into knowing smiles at all the jokes and inferences that pepper daily conversation.

“I got very lucky coming here because everybody’s helpful,” she said. McNulty helped her arrange her arrival and settle in. She sometimes made appointments with teachers and frequented the English and math help centers. Manzoor took advantage of some fun opportunities too, like a spring-break trip to California with other international students.

With few international students at the school, Manzoor found people especially eager to learn about and help her. Some felt cautious asking about her culture and religion for worry of offending her, according to McNulty. But Manzoor proved friendly and willing to answer questions. Most people she’s met in college know only what they see on the news about Afghanistan and ask her if it’s always like that. She said she takes some precautions, like scheduling her days to avoid high-traffic times and areas, but generally feels safe at home.

“I am happy with my family and they are happy,” she said.

Manzoor enjoyed the discussions in her last semester’s anthropology and western civilization classes, which delved into Afghanistan’s 5,000 years of history and its many ethnic groups and 30-plus languages. Manzoor speaks Pashto and Dari, the native languages of her parents.

Now finished with a general studies degree, Manzoor looks forward to earning her undergraduate degree in conflict resolution. She hopes to continue her studies in the U.S.

In between degrees, she may return to work with the Afghanistan PEACE Project. She plans to become a translator, like two of her four younger brothers.

Her work at the Afghanistan PEACE Project inspired more than just studying in the U.S., it fueled her career goals and passion to help her country. Her father moved the family to Pakistan for 12 years during the Taliban regime. When he felt it was safe, the family returned in 2004. As a young adult seeing reconstruction going on all around her, she initially wished she could go back to Pakistan.
But then she started her job
as an administration officer at Afghanistan PEACE Project.

“I very soon realized that’s
my country and that’s the place that I need to help,” she said. She’s glad she started her path at Casper College.

“I enjoyed my time here, I enjoyed meeting friends here,” Manzoor said.

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