I believe that women have the ability to support and pave roads for other women despite global barriers and linguistic differences. Not only do I believe this, but I see it as a personal responsibility to provide young women abroad with the same opportunities that allowed me to succeed academically and professionally in the US. I am passionate about women’s empowerment and mentorship in the field of education because I know from personal experience how many doors education can open for a young woman seeking new opportunities. I want to pay tribute to the young women I mentor who work so hard toward their goals and passions to succeed in an environment that is unknown to them in the US. They jump many barriers and push themselves to limits many people never dream of and they deserve recognition for all their hard work and self-sacrifice.
It is sometimes difficult for me to realize the great amount of privilege and fortune I have had receiving a free, high-quality education in the United States. I certainly took it for granted at the time and loathed waking up in the morning to learn about basic math or reading, and what eventually became literature, geography and politics. We can easily lose perspective of what is truly important and how the success of our futures is really just built on the foundation of something as basic as elementary school. The older I became and the more I travelled as a young adult, the more passionate I became about educational and cultural exchange—especially between the US and Azerbaijan. This country exposed me to wonderful opportunities and some of the most inspirational students (who in fact, I was supposed to be inspiring to study in the US) and I will never forget this experience for the rest of my life. I want to pay tribute to the kind, visionary and passionate young women I met working as a mentor in Azerbaijan at local universities. I arrived fully prepared to guide and mentor young women to study in the United States, but I learned so much more about authentic female empowerment and the important role that educational opportunities play for female students’ wishing to change the direction of their lives.
I have always been passionate about teaching and mentorship, but never seemed to be so fond of the rigorous academic aspect, and instead treasured the human bonds and inspirational networks that formed when students and teachers were passionate about the same educational goals. I value my students in Azerbaijan as an academic mentor because I know that the hard skills I teach to apply for universities or scholarships is always going to be met with enthusiastic energy and curious eyes that wonder what studying or working in the US could possibly be like. This is the most rewarding part of my job—watching a young girl’s eyes light up and her pencil suddenly jot down all her favorite high school subjects that she may want to pursue as a freshman at a US university.
I choose to be a mentor because truthfully, I wish I had one at such a young, impressionable age, and that’s no secret. I tell my students every day that I choose this profession because I had no guidance as a first-generation student in America. I had to build my own bridges and do my own research, but I want to see my students succeed even more than me and reach goals beyond what I could have even imagined for myself by providing them with access to resources at an even earlier age. I love providing lists and lists of scholarship opportunities, research grants, university programs and language courses for my students because I know that early access to these opportunities will have a greater potential to change lives. And in return, seeing my students perk up and watching their dreams expand before my eyes is something every person should experience and can experience.
My sincere passion is to not only continue paving an academic route for young women in Azerbaijan and prepare them for the long, academic journey ahead, but to also keep in touch and follow up with them after they depart. Supporting women and their goals is not a one stop project—in order to truly be successful with providing young women professional and education opportunities abroad, it is vital to follow up with the students to ensure they are not discouraged by unforeseen obstacles, have not lost sight of their short and long term goals and continue speaking with someone who has experienced a similar situation. Being a mentor is more than being a leader—mentors can also be a reflection of their future students’ success and that is the most impressionable aspect of this job by far.
Ultimately, I hope that my tribute to my students in turn becomes a tribute to their own future students in the years to come. Whether my students chose to be teachers, lawyers, businesswomen, or anything else, above all, I hope they become mentors. I hope their inspiring stories and determination to succeed are used as examples for generations to come, and I hope they see in others what I see in them. It is without a doubt that I continue doing what I do because of their consistent progress and love for life and their mysterious future that keeps me going and inspires me. Every girl deserves to have a motivating woman as a mentor in their life to provide guidance, advice and encouragement during every step of their young academic or professional careers. At times, I forget how vulnerable and impressionable I was as a young girl until I see my students and realize that adults have every power to make or break a young girl’s future. If we passionately encourage growth and learning in women from a young age then I promise we will be left inspired by what is to come. I will never underestimate the power of my students and I encourage anyone reading this tribute to my very inspirational young girls to begin mentoring marginalized groups in your local communities. It is the most rewarding and unforgettable experience I have had!
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