Utah Valley University has been known for its ethnic diversity. Students from across the globe flood the campus hoping to receive a top rate education. However, Najib Niazi, an international business major, is the first to make it here from Afghanistan.
Born in Kabul and raised in Mazar-isharif, Niazi faced unimaginable hardships.
“When people ask me about Afghanistan and my life there I don’t know what to say,” Niazi explained. “There were so many bad things that happened, but there were also sweet things.”
At the age of 19 Niazi met an American by the name of Scott Carrier. Carrier, now a professor at UVU, was in Afghanistan writing about the struggles of the country and its people; Niazi became his interpreter.
The time Niazi spent with Carrier was no more than 20 days, and although it helped Carrier write a successful article, it put Niazi’s life in danger. An Afghani warlord put a hit out on him for helping the American reporter. To escape this danger he moved to Kabul and got a job at the United Nations office.
Niazi worked in the office until his past caught up with him then decided to flee the country. It was then he thought of Carrier and asked for help.
“He was in a dead end [in Afghanistan],” Carrier said. “Either way, I wanted to get him out. I can’t say for sure he would have been killed if he stayed, but it seemed like a definite possibility.”
Carrier got help from Bill Cobb, dean of the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at UVU, along with Integrated Studies director Scott Abbott, and in December of 2006 Niazi landed safely in Salt Lake City. Since that time he has been studying and working at UVU.
Niazi now speaks five languages and is working on his sixth. He enjoys soccer, tennis and driving at night with the stereo blaring. He aspires to master the art of cooking and feels at home in Utah.
“Salt Lake City looks like my country. It has four seasons, the same mountains full of snow,” he said. “I like it here.”
At first Niazi didn’t want to go back to Afghanistan, but he said he’s decided now that he will return, after completing his bachelor’s degree at UVU and a master’s degree in the U.S.
“I want to go back to Afghanistan to help make the world a better place,” Niazi said. “And if given the chance, I will one day run for president of my country.”