Student Spotlight: Sayed Zafar Hashemi

Student Prepares Afghanistan for a New Generation of Leaders, Is Interviewed by PBS

By Rachel Azaroff ( |   July 2010

Sayed Hashemi , Student

After spending his childhood in Afghanistan and weaving carpets as a teenager in Pakistan, 24-year-old Washington, D.C., radio show host Sayed Zafar Hashemi has traveled many miles and crossed countless boundaries. He now aspires to reach decision-making levels of leadership in Afghanistan and help realize opportunities for a new generation of educated professionals to help meet the country’s future challenges.

Sayed is an international radio broadcaster for the Afghanistan Service of Voice of America (VOA) and a political science major at UMUC. By the end of 2006, while working as a journalist in Afghanistan, he produced unprecedented programs that brought women and families in front of the camera, wrote for the leading English and Dari newspapers and covered investigative stories on controversial social and political issues.

Sayed enrolled at UMUC earlier this year as a step toward “further and deeper involvement in policies and politics at decision-making levels,” he says. “I believe that with quality education, I will be able to apply my experience, skills and intelligence to help form effective and practical policies and avoid conflicts as a result of misunderstandings and misconceptions.”

Sayed appreciates the educational system in America, as Afghanistan offers very limited higher education opportunities. He was enrolled at Kabul University, where he says the curriculum dates from the Soviet era, and where most lecturers were educated in the Soviet Union, Soviet-allied countries or Kabul University. Sayed believes there is a pressing need to create a modern curriculum, and that these outdated ideas are of no use in creating the system and generation of leaders Afghanistan needs today.

In January 2007, the prestigious Scripps Howard journalism semester in Washington, D.C. brought Sayed to the States, where he was the only international participant among five young journalists. While at the internship, he applied for the Afghanistan Service of VOA, and ended up getting the job.

He enjoys working for VOA, and how it helps him stay connected with his native country. "I feel rewarded when I provide useful information and important news to Afghans inside Afghanistan and around the world," he says.

Initially, Sayed enrolled at University of Maryland, College Park, but could not adjust his schedule there to meet the demands of his full-time job. He was attracted to UMUC because of its flexibility and the option of evening and online classes. "I think UMUC is a good place for people like me who have to work not only for school, but also for a living," he says.

Sayed credits his energy, patience and efforts to manage the challenges of being a full-time employee and student. He frequently has to miss activities like concerts and nights out with friends, but "when I think of the importance of education and recall my needs and goals, I simply understand that I am carrying an important mission. I hope it will pay off!" he says.

Watch Sayed discuss a new Afghanistan law that limits women's rights on PBS's Foreign Exchange TV.