The Schwarzman program experience: a deep dive into my fully-funded Masters
May 22, 2023
4 mins read
💼 Master: Global Affairs
⏳ Aug 2018 — Jul 2019
✅ Student Visa
💰 100% Financial Need Met
🤓 200 Students
Undergraduate Studies and Work Experience
For my undergrad, I studied Business Administration at the American University of Afghanistan. On top of that, I had work experience at Moore which is a global accountancy firm as a marketing associate. In Afghanistan, it's a common practice to work during undergraduate studies. Lastly, I was involved in on-the-ground activism since I was 14 years old.
Deciding to Apply to Schwarzman Scholars
My decision to apply to the Schwarzman Scholars program was motivated by my background in business and a desire to explore the second-largest economy in the world: China. I wanted an opportunity to receive a global education and study abroad outside of my country. Schwarzman Scholars emerged as the perfect fit, promising a wide, global perspective and connections with scholars worldwide. The program presented a truly unique opportunity, so I chose to apply.
Crafting a Successful Application
When asked how to create a standout application for Schwarzman Scholars, I always emphasize the importance of every aspect of the application. This means, all facets - from your work experiences and ambitions to your passions and extracurricular activities, your academic accomplishments, and leadership experiences - matter significantly.
To be a successful applicant, it's crucial to tell your unique story and work diligently on each component, including the mandatory 2-minute video. However, in my personal experience, what stands out the most is demonstrating leadership. This doesn't necessarily need to be on a grand scale; even small instances where you've displayed leadership, be it at university, work, or any extracurricular activities, can make a substantial difference.
Take my example: I have a strong passion for women's rights and business, so my application included my experiences working in businesses involving women. This alignment of my passion, experiences, and future vision, I believe, made my application stand out.
More details about the application process: https://www.schwarzmanscholars.org/admissions/application-instructions/
First time in China
Moving to China was a first for me - the first time I left my home country on my own. It was challenging to be away from my family and familiar surroundings and to suddenly have to solve all my problems independently. But over time, this experience became rewarding. I learned how to adapt, understand Chinese culture, interact with local people, and grasp the nuances of the global economy.
For anyone considering a move to China, I'd advise entering with an open mind. Preconceived notions and stereotypes won't help you understand the place or its people, who I found to be incredibly welcoming. Embrace the experience, enjoy your time, and make the most of what the country has to offer.
My time in China wasn't just about studying. I traveled to seven cities and participated in conferences throughout the country. These experiences enriched my year abroad and made it a truly memorable one.
Scholarship benefits & living arrangements
While it's been a while since I graduated, during my time the Schwarzman Scholarship covered pretty much everything. This included tuition, flights, housing, and meals three times a day. We also received 4000 USD per year as a stipend, which was more than enough since rent and food were already taken care of.
All Schwarzman Scholars live in Schwarzman College, which is right inside Tsinghua University. This means you live, study, and do everything else right there. It's like your own little bubble, which makes things a lot easier.
Being a Schwarzman Scholar gave me an amazing academic experience. You get to pick your own courses, which is great because it let me study a lot of different things. I took classes like China’s Role in the Global Economy and Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Our professors were top-notch, even including people like Karl Eikenberry, the former US ambassador to Afghanistan.
But Schwarzman isn't just about studying. It's also about learning from real-world experiences. We had a global leadership class, where we got to hear from big names like John Kerry and Madeleine Albright. It was a great opportunity to learn from their personal experiences.
There were also what we called "deep dives". I went to Hangzhou and visited Alibaba and other tech companies that have really helped China's economy grow. And some other scholars visited rural areas in China to see firsthand how the country is working to reduce poverty. It was all part of getting a well-rounded understanding of China.
Life after graduation
After graduating, my journey took me down many roads. I started off by returning home to Afghanistan. However, the unstable political climate there forced my family and me to leave, leading us to start afresh in Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian country.
In Kyrgyzstan, I joined the Unison Group, an energy governance consulting firm, serving as a development manager. Simultaneously, I launched my own NGO, Chadari, focusing on storytelling and awareness-raising programs.
The next stop on my journey was London, where I pursued my second Master's degree at the London School of Economics, specializing in Gender, Development, and Globalisation. Since completing this degree six months ago, my focus has shifted largely toward advocacy and activism, particularly in the wake of Afghanistan's collapse.
My work has taken me to various platforms, from giving a TED Talk and speaking at the UN and the House of Commons, to being on a panel alongside the 27th Prime Minister of Australia. As part of the stakeholder engagement team for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Afghan Women and Girls, I am working to bring the issues facing Afghan women and girls back onto the agenda. All while continuing my work with my NGO, raising awareness about crucial issues, and lobbying for change.