Glamour magazine has named activist and runner Zahra Arabzada ’19 one of 2018’s top College Women of the Year. One of only 10 students profiled, Arabzada’s online feature describes her journey growing up in Afghanistan and studying in the United States, her dream of becoming a doctor and her drive to run – which has motivated her to advocate for Muslims and compete in marathons. Throughout it all, Arabzada has blogged about her experiences running in a hijab in order to educate and inspire others. Glamour will also release the article, titled “10 College Women on Activism, Me Too, and Calling B.S. on Perfection” in its summer issue.
“I grew up in Afghanistan, and my first dream was to learn to read, because my mom can’t. She still gets excited to write her name, and she’s 54. Those moments motivate me,” Arabzada shares in the Glamour profile, which includes interviews with nine other women from colleges across the United States and Canada including Harvard, the University of Michigan, University of Central Florida and the University of British Columbia. “I haven’t been home in four years. It’s hard to be so far from where I think I belong, especially when there’s this misconception there that I’ve come to the U.S. to ‘please American men.’”
Arabzada was tapped to participate in Glamour’s Top Ten after being featured in the Runner’s World magazine article, “Asics? Check. Hijab? Check. Meet the Afghan Student in New York Running for Equality,” describing her experience preparing for a 50-mile ultramarathon. Arabzada linked up with the organization, whose mission is to empower women and girls in conflict-affected regions through sports, after creating her blog “The Hijabi Runner” during an internship with HWS’ Centennial Center in 2017. Arabzada’s blog posts challenge misconceptions about Muslims who live an active lifestyle.
“I am honored to be featured in Glamour among incredible women doing advocacy work that affects people around the world,” Arabzada says. “This platform allows me to share my story and to discuss with others why Afghanistan and the role of women in my home country are perceived the way they are. Afghanistan has been affected by war for four decades and as a result the country is no longer the direct image of who they used to be. People there exist in a culture of war, but that is not who they are.”
This summer, she will also be featured online in Health magazine’s #RealLifeStrong campaign, a series of profiles on women who represent strength, resilience and grace.
Arabzada intends to return to Afghanistan after completing her education, where she says she will advocate for women in her hometown of Kunduz. A biochemistry major, she will spend her summer interning for Dr. John Harmon, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Maryland. On campus, Arabzada is a member of the Public Leadership Education Network and the HWS Running Club. She is a Resident Assistant and a tour guide for the Office of Admissions. She was also a part of the HWS Physics Department’s RockSat-C aerospace research team and is enrolled in the Leadership Certification Program. She intends to run her second 50 mile ultra-marathon in September.