Nagina Ahmadi ’20 has received second place in a literary writing competition sponsored by the Consulate of Spain in New York City for university and college students in New York. Ahmadi’s short story, which is in Spanish, is titled “Dos Pueblos, Una Amistad” (Two Towns, One Friendship).
Ahmadi wrote about her experiences during her HWS study abroad experience in Seville in 2017 and how life there reminded her of her native country, Afghanistan. “I wrote about my host mom, Isabel, and how she inspired a connection to my home country,” says Ahmadi. “She made me a soup called puchero, which is a traditional dish of southern Spain in Andalucia. The soup was the same as something my grandmother used to make for me called shorwa.”
Growing up in Buffalo, N.Y., Ahmadi says the experience helped her to re-connect with Afghan culture.
The similarities in the two cultures were also noted by Associate Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies Fernando Rodriguez-Mansilla, who was the director of the Fall 2017 study abroad program settled in Seville, Spain, in which Ahmadi participated with another 17 HWS students.
“When we went to Seville last year, she found a lot of connections between the Andalusian traditions, influenced by the Muslim presence in the Peninsula during Middle Ages, and her own heritage,” he says. “Her awarded text deals with those connections that she found between her host family and her own family through meals, feelings and common cultural aspects.”
“Growing up in Buffalo, learning English and then Spanish were great experiences,” says Ahmadi. “But in the process I was losing my mother’s tongue, Farsi. There was a time when I was unable to speak or write in Farsi. The opportunity of going to Spain and the process of writing about my experiences there have inspired me to celebrate the big part of my life that is my Afghan culture.”
A biology major with a minor in Spanish language, Ahmadi is a teaching fellow for the Spanish program at HWS. A Dean’s List student, she also worked as a tutor with the America Reads program and serves as an assistant in the William Smith Dean’s office.
“Nagina’s text was effective and valuable, because it was well written in the target language, soulful and expressed a deep gratitude to her host family and, by extension, to all her experiences in Spain,” says Rodriguez-Mansilla.
Students from more than 50 universities and colleges in New York with Spanish studies programs participated in the contest. Winning entries were judged on style and on how well the writers were able to evoke a sense of the location about which they were writing. Ahmadi received an assortment of Spanish language books for her second place showing.