Having a desire to help create peace in her homeland, Tajikistan, Zamira Yusufjonova decided to attend the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.p. She learned about the Kroc Institute 2 years ago when she taught a course in conflict resolution and human rights at a summer camp in Tajikistan. “The children in my course refused to talk to each other and if they came from different regions from their own country they would barely even acknowledge each other, reproducing the tensions that exist in the country,” she says. “This experience confirmed my determination to make peace studies the focus of my education.”
Zamira says she truly appreciates campus life. “It’s a pleasure to be in this university because it seems to me that it is a little island of democracy,” she says.
Although the university offers extracurricular activities, Zamira says spending her time learning and studying about peace resolution is her priority. “I think I started cherishing peace very much after I went through the war,” she says. “I think people who experience a war think that another war is possible and I am one of those people.”
In Tajikistan, Zamira says, “people from different regions still contain anger towards each other and memories of the war are still preserved and wounds need to be healed.”
Zamira says a book titled People Building Peace, which was given to her by a friend provided further inspiration to pursue an education in peace studies. “I remember a quote from the book,” she says, “that ‘wars generate in minds and hearts of people and therefore it is their consciousness that needs reform and that education defines human consciousness to a larger measure. Therefore, its role in creating peace in the world is paramount.’”
“That quote really was an inspiration for me and motivation, because I really want to inform my country-mates about the conflict in our country and ways that it can be potentially resolved,” she says. “I do sometimes notice — I have to admit — that peace is taken for granted by some people. This I find amazing. I hope these people, Americans — and other people who didn’t go through the war — will not have to go through one in order to cherish and appreciate peace.”
Zamira says one of the greatest surprises she found studying in the United States was the number of other international students here. “I find it amazing how in one day you can meet people from all over the world — from Chile, Peru, Ecuador, African countries (like) Nigeria, Ghana — it is just amazing how by interacting with those people you can get to know their country, you don’t even have to travel to their country,” she says. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to enlarge your knowledge by just being present in an international community. I cannot even imagine seeing any person from Nigeria or Ghana in my part of the world. So it is a very big opportunity and such an advantage to be present in a university that brings so many international students to the campus.”
She encourages other international students to pursue a degree in the United States. “Because first of all, a U.S. education is highly known for its high qualities.” In addition, she says there are so many facilities available here and “an environment that encourages you to study.” Education isn’t valued as much back in Tajikistan, she says. “People are more willing to go into business and earn money to support their family,” Zamira says. Here I realize what I really want to do. I want to pursue an education and then teach when I go back."