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A View from AzerBaijan: MCC Hosts a Fulbright Scholar

Summer 2008 | Archives

Sabina Jafarova It all began with a conversation between MCC President Dr. McDowell and Creighton University´s Director of the Center for Health Policy and Ethics Dr. Amy Haddad. It turned into a journey of more than 6,400 miles each way for Sabina Jafarova, her husband Murad and 7-year-old daughter Beim.

Jafarova traveled to Omaha as a Fulbright Scholar in Residence from January to June this year, staying at MCC´s Fort Omaha Campus and working at an office at Creighton University. She saw the Fulbright Scholar Program as a good chance to grow professionally, experience a new country and share her country and culture with others. In her home city of Baku, Jafarova works as an assistant at the World Bank Office on the Health Sector Reform Project. She speaks Russian, Azeri, English and Turkish and has worked with internal refugees in Azerbaijan. Her work in Omaha and at Creighton focused on best practices in health policy.

"I learned so much about health policy, the health system," Jafarova said of her time working and studying in the U.S.

As an extension of her Fulbright studies, she gave presentations to MCC classes and participated in and attended many college and community events. Her learning didn´t stop with her work. She attended the Nebraska football team´s spring game and visited the Unicameral. She learned about the United States, in which she found differences and similarities to her country.

In Omaha, she experienced a lack of public transportation and less traffic. She found the development of IT in the U.S. different than what is experienced in Azerbaijan; Americans use the Internet all their lives. Also, U.S. health systems are more developed here but less accessible and more expensive, especially for those without insurance.

But she found the relationships between people, the values, to be a key similarity; people are people everywhere. She also saw that both countries have problems with vulnerable, poor populations.

"I had no experience with Azerbaijan and Azeri people, but the contact with Sabina, Murad and Beim has reflected other comments from citizens of post-Soviet Union countries," said Barbara Velazquez, coordinator of international/intercultural education at MCC. "Sabina and her family, like so many individuals who have blessed my life throughout my 20+ years at Metropolitan Community College, have provided me with greater understanding of their country and culture and have reminded me of the commonalities among people across the globe."

Outside of education, Jafarova enjoyed the people of Omaha. She was impressed by how nice and helpful they were, an experience that counteracts perceptions of Americans as standoffish. Jafarova asserts this is a misperception and took back with her a positive view of the people she has met and her time here.

Her husband and daughter enjoyed their stay as well. Murad volunteered in the community and studied English at MCC, something he hopes to return to Omaha to pursue in the future. Her daughter made friends, loved soccer and picked up American pronunciation and slang like ´cool´, ´yummy´ and, of course, ´Hannah Montana´.

"I enjoyed being here. It was a great five months," she said. "Thank you to everyone who helped me."


Azerbaijan Facts


Full name: Republic of Azerbaijan

Population: 8.5 million

Capital: Baku

Area: 33,400 sq miles, slightly smaller than Maine

Major languages: Azeri, Russian

Major religion: Islam

Monetary unit: Manat (1 manat = $1.21 U.S.)

Main exports: Oil, oil products

Facts: Famed for its oil springs and natural gas sources since ancient times. Gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Despite a 1994 cease-fire, Azerbaijan has yet to resolve conflict with Armenia over the Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. Azerbaijan has lost 16 percent of its territory and supports 600,000 internally displaced persons as a result of the conflict.

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