Atefah Hassani

Education is the foundation of everything else.

Atefah Hassani
Supporting talented students

We’re committed to making education accessible to all students and we’re thrilled and proud to share that from the Illuminated Bricks Campaign, the first scholarship was awarded to Atefah Hassani from Afghanistan.

Her entire life, Atefah has been ambitious, determinate, and kind. These qualities helped her become an entrepreneur, support her family, and put herself and her sisters through college.

In August 2021, Atefah had to flee her home and country after the Taliban invasion in Kabul. She was evacuated by Spanish military as a refugee with her younger sister, while the rest of her family is in Turkey. Atefah said, “I was hopeless, desperate, and deeply sad about everything that happened to me, to my Afghan fellows, and to my country.” She never thought she could be accepted to IE University. And now thanks to the generous donations received from the alumni community through the Illuminated Bricks Campaign, she is an IE Foundation Fellow at IE University set to start her Master in International Development this October 2022.

Atefah was ecstatic and in disbelief when she received the news that she was a full scholarship recipient. “I simply said, I cannot afford it considering my current situation. However, the fire and the desire inside me, pushed me to apply. I went through the whole process step by step, until I made it by receiving the IE Alumni Scholarship for Excellence as Master student of International Development!!!”

The Illuminated Bricks Campaign was created to support future IE Talent like Atefah who have been unable to study due to financial hardship and to recognize our donors who are encouraging our students to strive for growth, development, and success.

Scholarships are not just about the money; they are about the people, the opportunity to learn and grow as an individual, and the confidence to accomplish your dreams.

Supporting talented students


Tell us your story?
I was born and grew up in Afghanistan. My life, as the lives of millions of women, in there was not easy at all. However, I have learned to be kind, ambitious, defiant, independent, and stubborn when it comes to my rights as a woman and as a human being.

Being financially challenged, and since my father was the only breadwinner of the family, he was not earning enough to provide for the needs of the family. The situation shook me up to give a hand and to support my father in his struggle. I started looking for a job at the of age 14. Therefore, I started working as a cashier at a supermarket where I built relationships with local vendors. 2 years later, I was able to open my own small grocery, which I managed after school. My grocery store was successful and through that I was able to finance my education and that of my three sisters, as well as provide support (textbooks, uniforms, exams, etc.) to my female classmates in similar economic situations.

A year after my graduation, in 2016, I was forced into an arranged marriage by my family. This led me into a dark period of personal depression, during which the only solace I could find was my plans and dreams to build a path towards independence through a professional career and further education. I realized I must make a change and take ownership over my life. I sold my supermarket, and then convinced my parents that I was not ready for marriage.

Later, I made up my mind to move to Kabul to find a fresh start looking for a job and decide my career. Despite the challenges of moving away from my family as a single woman, I relocated to Kabul and chased my dreams. In February 2016, I got my first job at NHLP/MAIL a World Bank’s project. In 2018, I received an offer to become The Bayat Foundation’s Project Manager and, after one year, I was promoted to the role of Country Project Manager, I visited the poorest areas of Afghanistan as a humanitarian, I found my passion in my job – Bayat Foundation is a big non-profit organization in Kabul.

In August 2021, the Taliban (a group of terrorists) took over of Kabul, and like tens of thousands of Afghans, I had to flee my home and have been evacuated to Spain and ended up as refugee at age 29. I am currently living with my younger sister in Murcia, legally registered as a refugee. The rest of my family is in Turkey, also legally registered as refugees.

What’s your journey to IE?
I should confess when I newly arrived in Spain, that time I was hopeless, desperate, and deeply sad about everything that had happened to me, to my Afghan fellows, and to my country. I thought I lost everything that I achieved in past years in my country, until one day, a dear friend called me and said, “check IE University website and see if you can apply.” When I opened the website, each click took me to wonderful and amazing pages, including, extra curriculum activities, an international environment, incredible student clubs, career development, and so on. IE looks like “All in One” to me at that moment as an educational institution.

I was not hopeful about being accepted to IE University as well. I went through the website many times, and I was saying to myself, “I cannot” and was repeatedly saying “I cannot.” I told to my friend, I cannot get into this prestigious and highly expensive university. I simply said, I cannot afford it considering my current situation. However, the fire and the desire inside me, pushed me to apply. I went through the whole process step by step, until I made it by receiving the IE Alumni Scholarship for Excellence as Master student of International Development!!!

What are your goals and aspirations? What do you want to do or be when you graduate?
I have big dreams, not one, but many. Explicitly, I am committed towards working for an inclusive, equitable, and sustainable world for everyone through entrepreneurship. I want to reach out to developing and poor communities to create jobs and alleviate poverty especially for WOMEN. It is my mission to help more communities to develop self-sustainability so that they can help themselves in the long term.

Why are you grateful for the scholarship you received and for the donors? How does it feel to be the first recipient from the Illuminated Bricks Campaign?
For many reasons, first, I felt motivated and inspired again. Second, I believe this opportunity will enable me to follow my dreams and have a meaningful life as I wish to have. I have not been in an active academic environment since 2015, being back to an academic environment was a dream which I was struggling for it for many years, so it’s a dream come true. Also I think, I have a voracious appetite for education, education gives me satisfaction. And last but not least, without receiving this scholarship, I could have been one of those refugees who does not have access to higher education despite all my motivation and desire for education.

I have some mix of feelings, I feel honoured, humbled, and very thankful. Meanwhile, I feel more responsible and committed to work harder, to study harder, and make the most out of this valuable experience; because I have been given a platform; if I don’t use it; then I don’t deserve it!

We wake up every day by hearing the news, and headlines about war, natural disaster, global threats, refugees, poverty, hunger and so on. However, those are only some statistics, names, and numbers. We don’t see the potential, talent, dream, and lives of those who their lives are at stake in these headlines. I think our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately. This is how we make difference in this world, just by “giving back.” You are empowered, you empower me, I will empower someone else, this is how we make impact! Let’s swing in this circle!

Why is education so important?
I do believe quality education is so important. I think EDUCATION FOR ME IS THE FOUNDATION OF EVERYTHING ELSE, and when I am talking about education, I don’t mean only formal education, institutions, or classrooms. Education for me is beyond all these words and definitions. Education for me is a tool to help you to be enlightened, to create and to solve or to think critically. Education is a tool to help you expand your horizontal, and it doesn’t matter if you have to make it through a systematic formal way or informal way.

For more information about the Illuminated Bricks Recognition campaign, click here.