Mizhgona Okhonniyozova is a second-year Secondary Teacher Education Programme (STEP) student. Here she reflects on what’s she’s learned from her IIS experience and the reality of living her dream.

It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

STEP is far beyond what I was expecting before starting the programme. For me, it is not simply a master's, it is my dream that I am currently living. My fellow students and I are each on our own journeys and, together, we are exploring new and fascinating things. That’s why I call STEP “a journey inside a journey”.

Coming here during the COVID-19 pandemic was very challenging for all of us but we learned how to cope all together. Studying from our rooms without any possibility of going to the Institute and not being able to attend lectures and courses face to face together with peers, tutors, and teachers caused stress and anxiety for most of us. However, one magical sentence was the solution to all these obstacles: “We are here for you.” This was repeatedly said by my cohort mates and brilliant seniors, which kept me calm and helped me to go through this trial. It is not easy to build a relationship during challenging times, but we created a family. Now, we have coloured each other’s lives. Politics, race, gender aside, we were called here to love and to be loved. Here, people need other people; the little conversations, the friendly smile are the most valuable things for us. We cry together, laugh together, value simplicity, and discuss our dreams and ambitions.

What have I learned?

STEP has taught me to follow my dreams no matter if they seem impossible to achieve. I have learned to appreciate the little things and to make meaning out of them. The most important life-long lesson has been to allow myself to feel what I am feeling and practise being kind to myself. I have entered the stage of my life where I am a part of my own universe; I am experiencing myself, my thoughts, my feelings, and my dreams. I came with my identities as a young Ismaili girl from Tajikistan, but here I have made meaning of every single belief that I’ve carried throughout my whole life, shaped them, and taken them to other levels through reflection, questioning, understanding, and practising. I believe that there could be no better place for me than STEP to grow both personally and academically. A year and a half ago I was in a different phase of my life, dreaming of becoming a STEP teacher, but now I have almost finished the programme and become a thoroughly different person. I feel honoured and grateful to be one of the members of the STEP family.

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