OID: Hello, Abid! Thanks for talking to OID. We like to start out every interview with a little bit about the interviewee. So, tell us why you’re getting your Master’s at GWU, what makes you passionate about development, and what you are concentrating on in your studies?
Abid Amiri: Growing up in a refugee camp in Pakistan and living in post-Taliban Kabul, my textbooks, notebooks, and pens were all donated by USAID, UNICEF, and other development agencies. I remember getting so excited when international aid donors would come in to give us school supplies. Today, I am attending a prestigious graduate school in the U.S., because I was able to get my primary education with the help of development organizations. Otherwise, like many of my friends in other camps who didn’t receive donated school supplies, dropped out of school and later joined the ranks of the Taliban, I would have been a victim of the war, too. I was a constant aid recipient until 2004, when I was selected to participate in a one-year high school exchange program to the U.S. Later, I was able to come back for my undergraduate degree. The main reason why I wanted to pursue graduate study in International Development is that development aid really hits home with me, as I have come out of the conflict zone successfully due to the help I received from aid agencies. I am concentrating on economic development and international education. Afghanistan needs a lot of work in both these field, and I would like to play an important role in improving people’s living conditions, and their children’s education.
OID: What are you up to this summer? (work, social, etc.)
Abid Amiri: I conducted a 4-week internship with SIKA international in Islamabad, Pakistan. My job was to help this chemical company franchise with grant writing for projects in Pakistan and Afghanistan. During this time, I was also able to volunteer with Youth Exchange Study (YES) program alumni activities in Islamabad. As a YES program alum, I joined recently returnees of the program from the United States with Islamabad city clean up project, volunteered as an English language instructor to high school students, and conducted grant writing seminars for interested students.
OID: Many of the IDS cohort are from developing countries. Afghanistan is not a country we talk a lot about in classes, however. How do you feel like your own experiences and history have helped shape your studies and given you insight into our coursework?
Abid Amiri: One of things that I like about the IDS program is that the cohort population is very diverse. I have had students from Asia, Africa and South America in my classes. Their first-hand experience living in developing countries augmented the learning process. In the same vein, my life experience and work background in Pakistan and Afghanistan further enriched class discussions. I worked for American Councils for International Education in Afghanistan and ran an exchange program across the country. While traveling to different provinces for student recruitment, I learned quite a lot about program design and delivery. This experience helped shape my understanding of development, and its delivery. The reason I am concentrating on International Education is that I am a byproduct of exchange programs. I believe in this globalized world, direct contact of our young generation through exchange programs is vital to the future security and safety of Afghanistan and the wider international community. Sure enough, the IDS program will provide me with the expertise to achieve my future career goal in international education.
OID: Do you have any other thoughts on development that you would like to share with the OID blogosphere?
Abid Amiri: I actually have my own site, where I write regularly (and have been published in several places, including Diplomatic Courier Magazine). My most recent article argues that we (Afghans) don’t want to return to the post-soviet withdrawal era, as the NATO troops are scheduled to withdraw in 2014. The right decisions now can help to put the country on a new trajectory. Any political miscalculation between now and 2014 could have devastating effects on the long-term security/economy of Afghanistan. It will make or break the country’s future. To find out more, please read about it here, and check out my site, below: