Zohra Moradi ’22, an international student from Afghanistan, worked remotely for Voice of America (VOA) throughout the summer of 2021, writing stories for the news service’s Student Union section, which features articles about students and youth worldwide. The VOA internship was hosted by Trinity alumna Amy Katz ’79, VOA’s senior executive producer.
While working on a double major at Trinity College in international studies (with a concentration in global studies) and urban studies, Moradi also is minoring in Arabic. She wrote her VOA articles in English but conducted some interviews in Farsi and Pashto and then translated those interviewees’ comments into English.
VOA has published five articles by Moradi, with more slated to publish in the coming weeks. The headlines of her stories, each linking to the corresponding article, include: Students Criticize Online Learning as Inadequate; Afghan Fear Complete Taliban Takeover; Afghan Biker Climbs Mountain for Education’s Uphill Battle; Pandemic Halts Schooling for Afghan Students; and Investigated, Not Interviewed, for US Student Visa.
Moradi is the second in her family to attend Trinity; her sister Sabira Moradi is a 2018 Trinity alumna and currently works at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C.
Below, Zohra Moradi shares highlights of her academic pursuits at Trinity and her internship experience, as well as news of her family’s evacuation from Afghanistan to the United States.
Describe the path you took to Trinity and the challenges involved.
I wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for U.S. support in Afghanistan. I went to the School of Leadership in Afghanistan, SOLA, so that’s how I started. I was 14 when I went there, and that’s when I started learning English. Before that, I spoke not a word of English. So I went to SOLA boarding school for two years, and we had a lot of American volunteers, some from Germany, Switzerland, U.K., but the majority were Americans who came to my school and volunteered. They were mostly graduate students, [some of whom] postponed their master’s. They loved the culture, they loved the people, they loved how curious all these Afghan students are. They taught us English, literature, math. I’m still in touch with some of them, and they can’t believe that I’m here. They see a good future for all of us. So, after three years in boarding school in Afghanistan, I came to the U.S. as a sophomore to Marvelwood School, which is in Kent, Connecticut. I studied three years there, and after that I applied to Trinity, and I got a full scholarship. That day was the best day of my life, and it’s going to stay that forever because, you know, getting into a college is a huge thing for an Afghan student. I’m really grateful for Trinity.
What first sparked your interest in your majors and minor?
I picked my first major, international/global studies, because I’m really curious about the world, and I wanted to not only learn about the politics of the world, I wanted to learn about economics, culture, languages, and traditions. My second major, urban studies: I know Afghanistan is going through so much, and I see that we don’t have any urban planners, we don’t have good streets. I want to learn what other cities have done, how did they start up, how sustainable their cities are. The more I researched about this, I figured out I really need to study urban studies because one day when I go back to Afghanistan, [I want to help] rebuild all these streets, all these communities. By learning from other countries and what they have done, you can learn how to apply it. And the Arabic minor started because I love learning languages; I’m in love with languages.
What was the most challenging part of your internship with VOA?
I’m an international student, and I’m a slow writer [in English], so things don’t come out naturally that fast. I have to really think about every sentence I write. So I was trying to make it very clear, very precise—every sentence, every paragraph I was writing. So, I felt challenged. Also, coming up with a topic every week was challenging. I had ideas, but I had to really think about those ideas. But after writing three or four articles, it kind of got normal. I got faster, I got better, and I knew how to write after that.
Describe the process of coming up with story ideas and working with your supervisor to prepare articles for publication.
Every Monday, along with five or six other interns, we had a meeting with our editor and supervisor, Kathleen Struck. We were brainstorming all together, and she was giving us a chance, making us talk and come up with our own topic ideas. All the articles I wrote are my own ideas, my own sources, my own research, everything. We had a very supportive supervisor. If you needed anything, she was always there for you to ask. We had a group chat [system]. Every morning at 9:00 a.m., I signed in and had to write today’s plan, what I’m going to do. For example, I’m interviewing this person from this country, this person from this place. That’s how my day looked, trying to find sources and research. And my first draft was due one day, my second draft the second day, and on the third day I was working one-on-one with my supervisor, the editor. She went over the draft and might ask if a quote is in the right place, and she would highlight things and write notes on the side, but we had to make the changes ourselves.
How might this internship help you achieve future career goals?
This work helped me practice, almost every day, writing something. One thing I realized after this internship: I think journalism is not something that I want to do [for a career]. It’s a great environment, you learn a lot, you become an amazing writer, but it’s a little bit stressful to come up with a new topic to write every week. But no matter where you work, you always need to be able to communicate through your writing.
Was it stressful writing about the crisis in your home country?
I did write about the Taliban, what people were thinking about when the Taliban was getting into power around the countryside. … But when the Taliban took over Kabul, that was on my last day of the internship, and I couldn’t really continue to write. I was planning to write about that, but because I got so busy with my family and my relatives, I couldn’t really work after that.
How is your family—are they safe?
Yes, my immediate family, my parents, and two of my younger siblings, they got out. They got evacuated by Americans, and they are in Texas right now at Fort Bliss. I don’t know how long it’s going to take with the paperwork and the process because their visa was pending. Hopefully, they soon will resettle somewhere, but I don’t know where yet.
Header image by Hanifa Darwish ’22