From Iran to Waco: A journey to pursue dreams
"When a bird is in its cage, it is often afraid to venture outside to see the world. However, if it does indeed come out, it will fall in love with the world and never want to return to that cage," Baylor senior Asal Nabili said. "That is how it feels to be here, pursuing my education. It's a dream."
Like this bird, Asal took a risk by leaving her home country of Iran to pursue her dream of obtaining a college degree. Being a non-Muslim in a Muslim country, she was denied entrance to Iranian universities. Not willing to sacrifice her dream, Asal chose to leave her home country forever to pave a better path for her future.
"I think every person has a right to pursue higher education, and there is nothing that can stop you," Asal said.
Adjusting to life in a new culture
Coming to the United States alone at 17, Asal started her senior year of high school, knowing only the words "hello" and "thank you." After studying profusely and taking extra hours to learn English, she passed the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills exam, allowing her to graduate from high school in just one year.
Still working to grasp the English language, Asal attended Tarrant Community College where she took a full course load while working two jobs. Despite her busy schedule, she still managed to achieve a 4.0 GPA. Listening to the encouragement of several professors, Asal decided to compete in a regional math competition. After placing first in her division, she won a $10,000 scholarship, allowing her to transfer to Baylor.
Finding a new home
"The moment I walked onto campus, I knew I was home," Asal said. "I just wanted to come here, no matter the cost."
Now, as a senior, Asal is studying electrical and computer engineering. Having experienced poverty firsthand, she wants to create clean water solutions for developing countries.
"The power of her great attitude can't be ignored," Engineering Professor Cindy Fry said. "Asal is determined and ready to persevere in the face of challenges. These are the attributes--not necessarily high school class rank or SAT/ACT score--that determine a student's probability of success in college."
Giving back through service
Student Foundation is a student organization that serves Baylor in many ways, including raising money for scholarships. After receiving a Student Foundation scholarship last year, Asal decided she wanted to make a difference in her fellow student's lives by joining the organization.
"Without this scholarship, it would have been impossible for me to be pursue my education," Asal said. "Since I have seen the impact of scholarships in my life, I want to have that impact on someone else's life."
"Asal proves that regardless of what kind of hardship or challenges life gives, there is a way to overcome if you are willing to be courageous enough to seek it," interim Student Foundation Director Sameer Hashmi said. "She is a great ambassador for Student Foundation."
Throughout her difficult journey, Asal has continued to serve as an inspiration to others. Leaving her cage, she has spread her wings to soar to a promising future.
"I have had a lot of obstacles and challenges thrown at me and as soon as I think I have conquered one, the next one appears," she said. "However, through it all, I have become a stronger, more mature person, which has molded me into the woman I am today."