From Kabul to Venice with Ca' Foscari's scholarship: Rohullah's story

Rohullah Safi

Many university students were mong the thousands of people who tried to flee from Afghanistan after the Taliban took over the country in August 2021. Universities around the world started working to offer support to these young people who have been deprived of many rights, including the right to education, and who, in a very short space of time, have had to make choices that would have an impact on their future. 

Ca' Foscari has responded to this humanitarian crisis by allocating specific funding for scholarships to support Afghan students who wish to study at Ca' Foscari during the 2021/2022 academic year. Each student is entitled to a five-thousand-euro scholarship and to the exemption from Ca' Foscari's tuition fees.

Rohullah Safi is an IT graduate who travelled from Kabul to Mashhad (Iran), taking buses and taxis in a journey that lasted one day and one night. Rohullah, who is currently in Iran, has been keeping in touch with Ca' Foscari, where he intends to continue his studies in Computer Science. As Rohullah plans the final stages of his journey to Venice, he has agreed to share the beginning of this new chapter of his life with us. 

Rohullah, tell us about your life before the Taliban took over.

I'm from Baghlan, a northern province of Afghanistan which is well-known for its agricultural products and farming. I’ve been interested in IT since I was at school, and I’ve taken several IT certifications, such as the ones by Cisco and Microsoft. In 2018 I obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science at Kabul and since then I have worked as an IT professional with local and international organisations.

How did you escape from Kabul?

When the Taliban took over the city, the situation was terrible. When Kabul was under attack, I wasn’t even sure we would survive. However, when things were quiet I thought long and hard about how I could secure my life and my future goals. When the Taliban took complete control over Afghanistan, I realised there was no time to waste: I had to escape from Kabul.

I went to the bus terminal and bought a ticket to Herat. It was the saddest and most miserable trip of my life, because I left my family behind in a war zone. After 19 hours of travelling, the bus arrived in Herat. At this point, my next challenge was crossing the border with Iran, so I took a taxi from Herat to Islam Qala, which is on the border between Afghanistan and Iran. The Taliban stamped my passport and I was allowed to leave Afghanistan. When I entered Iran, I continued to travel towards the city of Mashhad, and after over three hours I finally got there. The journey from Kabul to Mashhad took 26 hours. 

Why did you decide to join Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, and which courses are you going to take?

I started planning my Master’s Degree studies about a year ago. I sent my application to Ca’ Foscari and it was accepted. I wished to continue my studies in Computer Engineering, and Ca’ Foscari offers an MA in that field. The second reason I chose Ca’ Foscari is that Venice is a beautiful city and I was attracted to it. I’m taking the MA in Computer Science - Software Dependability and Cyber Security.

Did Ca' Foscari help you at this difficult time? How?

The university arranged an online meeting for Afghan students in which we discussed many issues with the Rector, the Director of the International Office, and various professors. They listened to our concerns and tried their best to help us, keeping in touch with us via email and supporting us with paperwork and advice. I’m very grateful to Ca’ Foscari’s staff and I wish to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for helping me obtain my VISA more quickly. 

What is the situation in Afghanistan like for the people of your generation?

The situation in Afghanistan is getting worse day by day. Many professionals have left the country due to threats, and the younger generations are confused as to what they should do to secure a better future. Professionals are looking for jobs online, hoping to work with international organisations, but the situation is critical: there are no facilities in the capital city and people feel hopeless. Nevertheless, the Afghan people are doing their best for the future of Afghanistan. There are still many students stuck in Afghanistan. I wish more could be done to help them secure their studies and plans for the future.

Have you ever been to Venice? What do you think your life as a university student in Venice will be like?

I’ve never been to Venice before. I think as a student I will try to stay focused to achieve my objectives — Computer Science is my passion and I have struggled to get to this point. Moreover, as an Afghan student I know this is a golden opportunity for me to experience the EU education system and its quality. I look forward to learning from the professors and to working hard towards my goals, to make my dreams come true.

Joangela Ceccon / Federica Scotellaro