Immigrant and first-generation graduate hopes to inspire other Afghans
When Tariqullah Wardak moved to the United States from Afghanistan after high school, he found adjusting to life in the United States hard.
He faced language and cultural barriers and found being far away from his family difficult.
He was thrilled, however, to be indoors where he had the resources and support he needed to succeed academically, having come from a country where he had to study outside in the mountains and endure hot and freezing temperatures.
Wardak, who was a Dr. Floyd F. Koch Honors College and Phi Theta Kappa member, overcame his barriers with the help of Palm Beach State College staff and faculty. Today, he is a proud Associate in Arts degree graduate with plans to pursue an aerospace engineering degree to become an astronaut and work for NASA or SpaceX.
One of his many supporters was Professor Helena Zacharias, who taught him how to read and write English and with whom he shared his life story.
“I will never forget how nice and polite she was in responding to my million questions. She always said, ‘Tariq, you know how very proud of you I am. You are responsible for all these wonderful achievements, and I am so excited to see where life takes you!’”
Professors Robin Fiedler, Sherry Hall and Barbara Sharp also served as his mentors.
While at PBSC, Wardak was the executive vice president of PTK; and alumnus of the Kimmel Leadership Academy; a member of the American Medical Student Association and Student Empowerment in Action Club; a senator in the Student Government Association; and was selected as a semifinalist for the 2023 Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, among others.
He also landed an internship in the Financial Aid office, which helped develop his teamwork, leadership and time management skills and allowed him to help support his family financially in Afghanistan.
These activities, conferences and opportunities provided by PBSC allowed Wardak to travel, engage with other cultures, and develop meaningful professional connections.
“Before attending PBSC, my focus was primarily on solving my own personal problems,” Wardak said. “However, now I am equipped to think beyond my own circumstances and contribute to solutions for community challenges and difficult world problems.”
For example, last month, he addressed the risk of nuclear waste management as a student delegate at the 2023 National Model United Nations Conference in New York.
Wardak hopes his education will inspire others in Afghanistan.
“I was born and raised in a place where most people do not have access to education, and it is still not a human right. However, through my story hopefully this will change.”