Long Walk to Education: Meet Alumnus Baryali Waiz 

JCU alumnus Baryali Waiz, a refugee from Afghanistan, graduated in May 2020 with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Communications. He has been accepted at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in New York City, where he will pursue a Master’s in Conflict Resolution. Columbia awarded Baryali a sixty thousand dollar scholarship, and he has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise the money necessary to cover the rest of his expenses.

Baryali Waiz

Baryali Waiz

“The name of my GoFundMe campaign is ‘My Dream Was to Have a Notebook,’ and it refers to my dream, ever since childhood, of wanting to get an education. But in Kabul after elementary school I went directly to work on the streets, selling water and bread until midnight. I always wanted to learn but had no books and could not study,” said Baryali. “At 16, my only choice was to join the government army or go with the Taleban, so I decided to leave,” he added.

The Italian daily La Repubblica recently featured the story of Baryali’s long and dangerous voyage from Afghanistan to Italy. He walked through the mountains of Iran, traveling at night so as not to be seen. In Istanbul, migrant smugglers put him and other refugees on a dinghy that took them to Greece. In Athens, he managed to get on a boat to Bari in southern Italy, and then finally he arrived in Rome. “Once in Italy, I spent a month sleeping on the streets, trying to forget for a moment that I almost died trying to get here.”

At first, Baryali took any job he could find while he learned Italian and studied to earn his high school diploma. He also worked as a cultural mediator, especially with refugee children. He applied to John Cabot University and received a “World Presidential Scholarship,” which covered his full tuition. “I chose to major in Political Science to learn about my country and to have a clear understanding of its problems,” explained Baryali. “My dream is to assist those who need help around the world,  and especially to help save Afghanistan from ignorance and terrorism. Young Afghans are the victims of international terrorism, their right to be human has been taken away from them. They need to study, to have contact with the outside world, and to have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams,” he added.

“I am thankful to John Cabot University for having given me the opportunity to earn my degree. Without JCU, being accepted at Columbia University would have been impossible,” said Baryali, who said that his professors, particularly Professors Silvia Scarpa and Pamela Harris, were always available to give him advice and encourage him.

President Franco Pavoncello, who took the initiative to allow Baryali to study at JCU on free tuition, commented, “Baryali is a courageous young man, who did not hesitate to walk from Kabul to Rome in search of a better life and to realize his dreams. He faced many hardships but never let his life conditions lead him astray from his path. I wish him the best of luck and I hope that after John Cabot University he will be able to add Columbia to his inspiring journey.”