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In connection with the International Institute of Akron, Arrivals tells the stories of five people who are newly settled in Northeast Ohio.

He restarted his education in Akron after leaving Afghanistan

Samsor Ziar splits his time working as a full-time receptionist at the International Institute of Akron, attending evening classes at Stark State College of Akron and tackling homework in his family's apartment where he studies late into the night. Usually he shuts down his laptop around 12 a.m. And, like many other areas of his life, balancing work and school is a new challenge for him.

Samsor Ziar works at the International Institute of Akron as a full-time receptionist. After his shift ends, he drives to Stark State College of Akron where he is studying business administration and attends evening classes.
Kelly Krabill
Ideastream Public Media
Samsor Ziar works at the International Institute of Akron as a full-time receptionist. After his shift ends, he drives to Stark State College of Akron where he is studying business administration and attends evening classes.

He resettled from Afghanistan to Akron July of 2021 after his family was granted a Special Immigrant Visa, otherwise known as an SIV. It’s a visa given to Afghan and Iraqi people and their families who work for the U.S. military because often their safety is compromised.

Before leaving Afghanistan, Ziar studied Turkish literature for two years at Kabul University.

“I watched a Turkish series in Afghanistan with the Persian meaning, like they translated to Persian,” he said. “That made me interested if that was a great opportunity that I can work within media to translate some stuff from one language to another language.”

He loves learning new languages, but he didn’t find many jobs that would utilize his education in Turkish literature when he arrived in Akron, he said. So, he asked his friends, who previously resettled from Afghanistan, what he should study.

“They mentioned that I can study business administration and take my major in accounting,” he reflected while sharing his interest in math. “My degree will transfer from here to Kent State University after two years. When I get done with Stark State, I will do the accounting.”

Ziar started his college education over in Akron. At 23, he’s worried about finishing his degree later than he planned. He knew he would have to change his major when he arrived in the U.S. and his course credits probably wouldn’t transfer over, he said. Because of this, he decided not to request his transcripts from Kabul University.

International college credits reviewed

At Stark State College of Akron, international students have to submit their transcripts to a U.S. college credit equivalency company such as World Education Services. The third-party company evaluates the courses, sends the completed material back to the student and the student then must send the evaluation to Stark State. The college will determine if the credits are equivalent to their courses.

Stark State meets with students wanting to transfer their credits, but the college hasn't received any evaluations from Afghan students, said Drew Felberg, Director of Student Services, through email.

“We’ve had several Afghan students come to our Stark State Akron location after arriving in Akron. Most have their education documents, including their work completed at the secondary level and some at the college level. The Afghan students we’ve enrolled have completed the equivalent to a U.S. high school diploma,” Felberg said.

Education in Afghanistan

Ziar’s parents have different levels of education. His mother graduated from high school and attended medical school for three years until the Taliban took over the country, Ziar said. His dad went to college where he learned airplane engineering. He has a bachelor’s degree.

Ziar’s family moved to Kabul when he was one year old because the education system was unstable in other parts of the country due to the control of Taliban forces.

He liked living in the crowded city.

“We had a simple life over there,” he shared. “Not much cars or like not that much work, and here, it’s good. Like I have job, my own job, my own car, my college and income, but still, life of having friends are different from here and at Kabul because I had bunch of friends over there.”

A new life in Akron

In Afghanistan, students aren’t allowed to use computers in the classroom. So, it was surprising for Ziar when he took his first class at Stark State.

“It was a completely new, new thing for me, like, with the new people and altogether and they’re using computers and every, our every lecture and everything is coming from computers. So, it was a new experience for me in my life.”

He takes English composition in a classroom lined with desktop computers. Ziar and his peers are encouraged to partner up to talk through their ideas for a writing assignment.

 Samsor Ziar does homework in his bedroom at his family's apartment in Akron.
Kelly Krabill
Ideastream Public Media
Samsor Ziar does homework in his bedroom at his family's apartment in Akron.

Ziar often ends his day at home working on his assignments late. Despite being tired and knowing that his alarm is going to go off at 5 a.m. he works late into the night. His routine starts over like this every day — work, college, homework.

He wants to be an accountant or own a business selling Afghan items in Akron when he finishes his degree. Having an education gives people direction in life, he said. It gives them a future.

“With education we can do our love job that we want,” he added. “We can be successful. Education is something that if we didn't work on it or if we just leave it after a certain time when we get our degrees, we will know something. We will know that how to manage our life.”

Kelly Krabill is a multiple media journalist at Ideastream Public Media. Her work includes photography and videography. Her radio and web reporting covers a wide range of topics across Northeast Ohio.