“Beginnings have a perplexing beauty.” This is how Eid Mohammad Sultanzoy, a 43-year-old Afghan refugee, describes his experience of arriving in Canada in the summer of 2021.
He and his family were forced to flee Afghanistan after the Taliban entered the capital city of Kabul, took control of the country, and imposed severe restrictions on its residents, especially those who previously worked with foreign institutions.
Sultanzoy, who was working as an interpreter with the Canadian Armed Forces in Kabul at the time, suddenly found himself in imminent danger. “To stay meant a direct threat to me and my family,” he said.
In Afghanistan, Sultanzoy’s career took many twists and turns. Having earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, he worked as a field manager with USAID for many years. He went on to study pharmacy at a private institute in Kabul. At the same time, he worked as an elementary school teacher and an interpreter with the Canadian military in order to provide basic necessities for his family.
Arriving in Canada, Sultanzoy felt safe but also disoriented. What should—and could—he do to support his family now? “When I got here, I had so many plans and hopes, but I didn’t know where to start,” he reflected.
A few months after settling in Ontario, Sultanzoy began to explore ways to leverage his education and professional experience to start a new life in Canada.
Thanks to a local Facebook group, he learned about the World Education Services (WES) Gateway Program, which assesses academic credentials of individuals who, as a result of adverse circumstances in the country where they earned their degrees, have limited proof of their academic achievements.
“It was a wonderful surprise to learn that there is a special program for evaluating academic degrees for people coming from countries in conflict like Afghanistan,” he said.
He found the process of applying for the WES Gateway Program easy. “I had all the necessary paperwork,” he said. WES asked applicants to send digital copies of transcripts via email, and Sultanzoy found a friend who helped him scan them digitally. “The online application process was very helpful.”
Sultanzoy had no idea how many months the evaluation process would take, until one happy day when he checked his email. “I got it within two weeks of applying,” he recalled. “This was incredible—a wonderful day I will never forget.” He received an evaluation of his degree in agriculture, which he had obtained from Kabul University.
Sultanzoy is now able to see a path forward in Canada. “I would like to go back to school for a master’s degree in agriculture and maybe a PhD after that. There is a lot left for me to learn in this field,” he noted. “With my previous experience, I will be able to benefit Canadian society.”
Sultanzoy hopes that other newcomers will discover and take advantage of the support offered by the Gateway Program, especially since WES is continually expanding its list of accredited universities and academic institutions, allowing for the evaluation of more degrees and certificates.
“Every day, people resettle in Canada due to conflicts in their home countries,” Sultanzoy said. “They need someone to help and guide them in taking their first step toward building new lives here. The WES Gateway Program fills this role very effectively. It helps us to not only get started, but to become confident of a better future.”