International Student Spotlight: Jamaluddin Aram ‘17


By Caroline Hershey


In 2011, Jamal worked as associate producer on the Oscar-nominated film Buzkashi Boys and during this time also produced his personal short documentary My Teacher is a Shop Keeper, which highlights the educational conditions under which most Afghan children abide. According to Jamal, the title is meant to illustrate “how teachers in Afghanistan maintain a second job while teaching school, because the wage that they receive from the Ministry of Education is not sufficient.”     Jamal further explained that after returning to his former school, he noticed how little had changed. The film was well received at film festivals in both Europe and Afghanistan.

He also produced another documentary film called Incredible Journey, which addresses culture shock.

So what brought Jamal from Kabul to Schenectady? The combination of a good scholarship, Union’s efforts to bring more international students into our community and the strong humanities programs that matched his interests made Union especially appealing to Jamal.

When Jamal arrived on campus, he realized that Union was more than just the words on the website. “These are the things that you read about every college, but when I arrived at Union I realized that the people are even more friendly than I thought and the campus is more beautiful than I imagined.”

Aside from filmmaking, Jamal’s academic interests include creative writing, poetry and short stories, literature, art, history and French. Right now, his main concern is getting on top of his studies and catching up.

Although Jamal is a few years older than the other students in the first-year class and he sometimes feels out of place because of his age, he  feels that he is adjusting very well and has felt welcomed.

Jamal was surprised to find out that he is not the first Afghani student to come to Union and that the most popular question he is asked by students is about the length of his flight from Kabul to New York. Jamal expected American students to have many questions about his home, so he made a short film about daily life in Kabul, which he dedicated to Union.

According to Jamal, he didn’t experience that much culture shock, since he has been watching many Hollywood movies and has read many books. He noted, “It feels almost as if I came here 10 years ago.”

Thinking about his future, Jamal plans to continue sharing his unique experience and upbringing with the world. “After graduation, I want to be a writer because I have a lot of stories to tell and if I don’t tell them, no one else in the world has the passion and ability to tell them.”

Jamal has plans to possibly attend graduate school in the U.S., but eventually wants to return home to Afghanistan.

Because he achieved so much between 2008 and 2013, Jamal has inspiring advice to share with other students. “People feel that the task at hand is so big that they cannot deal with it, like classes, relationships etcetera. But what I have found from living in Afghanistan is that there is nothing greater than the human will. If you want to do something and you want it, you can do it.”

To watch Jamal’s short film, Smile, search “Smile a short video by Jamal” on Youtube. To watch My Teacher is a Shop Keeper, search “Jamal Aram my teacher is a shop keeper” on Vimeo.


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