Usman Afzali, PhD


Lecturer (Teaching and Admin), Psychology, University of Canterbury

This is for you, dad!


July 07, 2022

I don’t blame those telling me not to even think of studying in New Zealand when I first came here in 2011. They thought I’d fail, it was impossible to study, etc. Back then, that probably was the usual experience.
I started working odd jobs: restaurants, supermarkets (everyone does it, but only a few confess). Though it always bothered me, as in the back of my mind, I came here with a medical degree from a country whose degrees were not accepted here.
Whenever I talked with dad, he’d remind me that I was a doctor back home and it was my duty to reclaim the title in New Zealand - even if it meant cutting down their monthly financial support. When my attempts of getting into medical school didn’t succeed, I thought of studying psychology. And this is how I ended up at the University of Canterbury.
I started undergraduate in 2015, and let me tell you that it wasn’t easy. I was the definition of an underdog: a brown migrant, at least 10 years older than my classmates, and studying in my third language without any academic English expertise or experience.
I finished a BSc with Honours in 2018 with a prize, scored a PhD scholarship and jumped straight into the PhD in 2019.
Seven and a half years, 8 publications (some first-author), and many teaching roles later, I have a BSc with First Class Honours and a PhD in Psychology, with a recent huge prize for excellence in research and teaching.
This is despite the March 15 terrorist attacks in 2019, the pandemic, some notable on-campus obstacles (that I might share another time), and the tragic loss of my dad in 2020. In addition, both of our kids were also born after 2015.
I don’t mean to brag here. Just wanted to share my experience that with commitment and dedication, probably each of us have the potential of accomplishing anything. We just need the will power and a strong support from the family and mentors. I was blessed to have both.
Finally, dad! your loss has been devastating. You encouraged me, had faith in me, and kept reminding me. This was when many thought that I couldn't do it. My eternally unfulfilled wish is if you were around to share the moment and be pleased. رحمک الله Be blessed. This is for you!

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