Bard Opens Its Arms to Afghan Students


“What is taking place now in Afghanistan is a tragedy. It affects students and colleagues we have worked with over many years. We stand with the Afghan students…Bard has a long history of helping students and faculty fleeing conflict and persecution, and we will continue to engage and help in every way possible.”

–Leon Botstein and Jonathan Becker

Bard has taken on what may be its most challenging project ever, helping several hundred students continue their studies in Central Asia, Europe, and the United States. Many of them will be coming to the Bard campus here. And we can help.

Bard's Commitment to Afghan Refugees

Working with the Open Society University Network, of which Bard was a co-founder, Bard identified almost 200 students from the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul who wanted to relocate so they could continue their studies. Bard President Leon Botstein said Bard, at its Annandale, Simon’s Rock, and Berlin campuses, would accept 100 of them. So far, 70 have been admitted to the Annandale and Simon’s Rock campuses. Five have already arrived and many more will come in mid-January. They will have full tuition and room and board scholarships but will need more assistance with everyday living expenses and to cover travel and visa costs.

What's the Process?

Some of the students are being resettled, with their families, in the United States. For others, Bard is pursuing the lengthy process of acquiring student visas. Either way, there are complicated rules and restrictions on work, benefits, and asylum applications. And, although the students all have excellent English skills from their English language instruction at the American University of Afghanistan, there are cultural and curricular issues to tackle. Bard has assembled a team of 15 who meets weekly to strategize on all these issues. 

When the students arrive in mid-January, they will begin with a several weeks orientation. Part of that will be a version of Bard’s Language and Thinking Program, the program all matriculating students attend that establishes the nature of Bard’s intellectual life and encourages students to express themselves and be active in the classroom. You can follow the progress of the effort here.

Raed Ibraheim at his Bard College graduation

Bard's Long History of Helping Refugee Students and Scholars

Bard’s history of helping students and scholars find refuge from conflict goes back to the mid 1930’s when the colllege gave refuge to distinguished writers, artists, intellectuals, and scientists fleeing Nazi Europe. In 1956 the school welcomed hundreds of Hungarian student refugees, including Lazslo Bitó, after whom the Bard Conservatory building is named. Bard has opened its doors to refugees from Vietnam, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, and elsewhere..

A 2013 Bard graduate, Iraqi refugee Raed Ibraheim, wrote, “For me, my life began anew at Bard…a college unlike any I had ever heard of. A place where I could follow my passion for science while also making sculpture, joining clubs, playing soccer, and working in the community. A school with small classes and amazing professors who would become my mentors and friends…” (Raed is now a research scientist working on gene therapies).

How Can We Help?

There will be many ways to support this extraordinary effort. A number of LLI members attended the November 12 cocktail reception and silent auction to raise money for the Bard Afghan Student Fund. Others donated winter clothing items just before Thanksgiving. Some may have responded to Bard’s request to invite international students for Thanksgiving dinner. At the moment, consider a cash donation to help with daily living expenses and other services the incoming students will need.

To get some idea of what these students face, watch this video of Jalil Saadat, who arrived at Bard within the last few weeks.