Local Afghanistan refugee hopes to finish dental school after adjusting to new life in United States

It’s been almost a year since a woman and her family left everything behind to escape the Taliban in Afghanistan to come to Jacksonville. Gulalai Faizi and her mother, father, two brothers and pregnant sister-in-law started a new life in the United States after escaping Taliban control on August 19, 2021.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s been almost a year since a woman and her family left everything behind to escape the Taliban in Afghanistan to come to Jacksonville.

Gulalai Faizi and her mother, father, two brothers and pregnant sister-in-law started a new life in the United States after escaping Taliban control on August 19, 2021.

Before their escape, Faizi was studying to become a dentist. She was only six months away from completing her dental school program in Afghanistan when she had to flee to the U.S.

Now, Faizi is trying to find a local dentistry school that will accept her and help her achieve her goals. However, she said starting over has been difficult.

“It was a scary night,” Faizi said. Her brother and sister weren’t able to escape because they got separated from the family at the airport.

“We went outside of the airport. We all were together to get into the airplane to come to America. We lost my brother and sister. I was in the first line,” Faizi said. “I wanted to talk to the military and army to tell them that we received an email. Can we go inside?”

Faizi said she saw people die right in front of her. She recalled a moment when she saw a smoke bomb thrown at a woman, which burned the woman’s face.

She also said that she was in danger of the Taliban especially because she was a civil activist, who led several campaigns about women’s health.

“The girls are not able to go to university. The doors of the university are closed for the girls. [The Taliban] is against human rights,” Faizi said.

Gulalai Faizi in dental school in Afghanistan (Courtesy of family)

Faizi’s told News4JAX that her siblings, who were left behind in Afghanistan, were also in danger of the Taliban because of their professions.

Her brother is a journalist and her sister is an accountability and gender officer and runs an action against hunger organizations.

Faizi comes from a hardworking family and was studying to become a dentist for six years with only six months left to complete her program before leaving for America.

“The university I studied at was a very good university and has the same curriculum as here,” Faizi said. “The exam I passed in Afghanistan is a very difficult exam.”

Faizi said she wanted to pursue dentistry to help others and those who are less privileged to receive dental care.

Her dental school documents have been transferred over to the U.S. but she’s still trying to be accepted into a local dental school.

“It’s unfair that people are poor and can’t do anything for dental,” Faizi said.

Faizi said her dream would be to be admitted to the University of Florida.

“I want some people or the government to help me to go to the UF Health dentistry program to achieve my goals,” Faizi said.

Faizi’s family lived a plentiful life in Afghanistan, so adjusting to a new country has been a challenge.

Her family of seven including an infant lives in a three-bedroom apartment. Faizi works as a dental assistant in San Marco to provide for her family, but she doesn’t have a car to take to work.

Her normal commute would only take 15 minutes in a car, but since she has to ride the bus to work it takes her one to two hours.

“When we came here we thought we should have a good life, but I can’t sleep in this environment,” Faizi said.

That is a part of the reason why she wants to finish dental school so she can create the best life for her family in this new country they call home.

“I want to make a new life here because we start from zero here since we left everything behind. We had a good life,” Faizi said.

Faizi’s mother said she hopes to one day have her son and daughter here with her in the U.S. She also said she always has supported her daughter in becoming a dentist and hopes Faizi can make that dream come true one day.

Her friend started a GoFundMe to help restore everything Faizi’s family lost during their transition to the U.S.


About the Author:

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.