Photo by Joe A. Mendoza/CSU Photography
Helya Bavaghar, an international student from Iran, is graduating from Colorado State Unviersity with a degree in biomedical sciences, with plans to become a cardiovascular surgeon.
Last year, she was nominated for and received the Joan King Endowed Memorial Scholarship, which is earmarked for undergraduate students that demonstrate an interest in promoting gender equality in science and engineering.
A first-generation student, Bavaghar submitted an essay as part of her application for the scholarship. In that piece, she described her “unique greatness” as being defined not only by her genuine willingness to help others, but also that her greatness is “flourished and strengthened by the love and presence of my loved ones.”
Sarah Maddox, academic support coordinator for the Department of Biomedical Sciences, said Bavaghar arrived in the U.S. for the first time only days before classes started.
“She immediately made connections with her colleagues – a challenge for any of our students, let alone someone coming from abroad.” Maddox said that the soon-to-be graduate surmounted numerous obstacles to do volunteer work, too.
While completing her studies at CSU, she volunteered at a local hospital, worked as a tutor at the CSU Academic Advancement Center and served as an undergraduate research assistant in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. She also worked as a member of the Health, Emotion and Aging Research team in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.
Despite this more-than-busy schedule, Bavaghar said she has enjoyed her entire experience at CSU. “Being determined pushes me forward to reach my goals,” she said.
Through her work, Bavhagar said she’s talked with students whose home life could be challenging. Some of them come from underrepresented communities.
“Nothing makes my day more than seeing my students learn and reach that ‘a ha’ moment,” she said. “I know that I want to be a surgeon and saving lives is as true to me as taking my next breath. It gives me great pleasure to help others learn who they want to be, too.”
In their own words
Q. What was the most rewarding part of your CSU experience?
When I look back at my four years at CSU, it is hard to single out one rewarding experience. I left my country Iran one week after my 19th birthday to come to CSU, and now I am graduating a week after my 23rd birthday.
To say that I find myself a new person is an understatement; my time at CSU helped bring out the best in me. I can name so many professors who were alongside me in this journey, who helped me learn about respect, integrity, the value of hard work and the importance of applying my knowledge.
“My time at CSU helped bring out the best in me. I can name so many professors who were alongside me in this journey, who helped me learn about respect, integrity, the value of hard work and the importance of applying my knowledge.”
Their great contribution to my education, to my being, made me realize I want to do the same for others, so I became a tutor here at AAC, and I have been lucky enough to learn and grow with my students for the past three years, passing on what I have learned to them, being there for their struggles, guiding them through the material, and seeing my peer students getting excited about learning has been the most rewarding part of my college experience, one which I will cherish forever and am so thankful for.
Q. What obstacles, if any, did you have to overcome to reach graduation?
I am an international student, and while I know I would do it all, all over again, at times it does get hard not being able to share the small moments, the big moments with the most important people in my life.
I know being away from loved ones is part of everyone’s college journey, and I believe it is part of growing up. It is hard and it can feel lonely, at the same time it will give you perspective, it helps you appreciate your family and friends more. And at the end of the day, your loved ones are only a phone call away, so pick up the phone, call them and put a smile on their face and yours, that’s what I have been doing and it has been working.
Q. What is your advice to incoming students at CSU?
I think as young adults we all question our decisions every day, whether it’s about our major, our school life, our friends or life itself.
COVID started two years ago: What I mean is that the world is unpredictable, no one knows how it is gonna look in two years. In this time of uncertainty, it is easy to doubt yourself, but my advice to incoming students is to be willing to take a chance, not be afraid of being wrong, and embrace making mistakes and, most importantly, be kind to themselves just as they have been to so many others.
And remember that you are more than your grades. Hang on to what made you choose this path in the first place, and do not lose sight of the bigger picture. Rams truly do take of Rams. So trust each other and do not be ashamed to ask for help.