Rabia Nasimi was a five-year-old refugee when she made her way to the UK with her family, fleeing for their safety.
They came to the UK in hope of a better life and 18 years on Rabia is studying for a PhD at Cambridge University.
Rabia, her parents and her two siblings travelled from Afghanistan, wanting to flee the Taliban and live in peace.
The youngest child in the family, Rabia’s brother, was only six months old at the time, which made the journey more difficult.
When they arrived in the UK, Rabia’s parents – who had studied in the Ukraine after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan – settled in London.
Rabia’s father went on to found the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association which provides education to recent immigrants to the country.
Keeping a hold on her Afghanistan identity is important to Rabia, who told UNILAD:
I feel like I have a dual identity. I am able to feel British but equally part of Afghanistan. I speak my mother tongue so whenever I’m back in Afghanistan I am able to act like just a local.
I don’t require any special treatment (armed vehicles, guards etc). Nonetheless I have to say our first visit back in 2006 was quite shocking for me and my sibling, as everything was strikingly differently to the UK.
However, every journey I had, I learnt something, I was open to new experiences. Credit to the UK system which welcomes diversity, respects and tolerates different cultures and provides equal opportunities to all.
I’ve never felt like I need to let go of Afghanistan completely.
Rabia’s education is centred around her duel identity, and she is conducting research in the field of sociology with a particular focus on Afghan identity as a member of Lucy Cavendish College.
Prior to Cambridge, she studied at the prestigious London School of Economics for her Master’s and completed her undergraduate degree at Goldsmiths.
Speaking of the warm welcome she has received at Cambridge, she said:
They have welcomed me very warmly. Many lecturers and professors at the sociology department have send me messages along the lines of: ‘we are lucky as a department to have you, and I hope you get the best out of your experience’.
Rabia has been back to Afghanistan 10 times with her family, and is keen to try and reach communities in the country with her research. She wants to work with the UK government to support refugees.
Rabia feels there are aspects of refugees which aren’t properly represented in the media. She said:
Refugees have dreams. Refugees want to live in safety. Refugees want an education. Refugees want to work. They simply want to lead a happy life as does everyone else.
They’ve been driven out of their homeland, they fear persecution, they fear death. We should all try and imagine being amidst conflict and insecurity and think of what we would do?
I’m sure many people would answer by saying ‘look for safety’ – that’s exactly what refugees do.
British society allowed me to have the opportunities to continue your academic work. My story is an example of how with hard work and persistence you can achieve.
British society has been the enabler of my achievements and my family’s achievements.
Rabia also answers questions on her Twitter (@rabianasimi) about her experiences and efforts at Cambridge.
This inspirational story is proof of the power of the human spirit and evidence that anyone can succeed if given the chance.