Strachman was impressed by Siddiqui’s ability to put her ideas into practice. There was the Hollow Trunk, the nonprofit group that Siddiqui and other students created. And there was the Advancement of Afghan Women’s Scholarship, which Strachman called telling. “It wasn’t that she wanted to do this scholarship,” she said. “It’s that she got it off the ground.”
At home, Siddiqui has carved out a sanctuary for work and study. “I call this my cave,” she said, opening the door to a small room in the basement.
In the cave, the two sides of Siddiqui’s personality literally intersect. One wall is plastered with magazine tear sheets, the kind of collage that graces the inside of many a teen girl’s locker. On the adjacent wall, which is coated with black chalkboard paint, Siddiqui has scrawled inspirational quotes in Crayola sidewalk chalk: Abraham Lincoln, Paulo Coelho, George Bernard Shaw, Coco Chanel.
Siddiqui does wonder about the college path. “There’s definitely a sense of what could have been.” But she believes many rites of passage are overrated. She skipped the prom and Beach Week, when seniors head to the coast for one last class hurrah. Nor is she concerned about missing undergrad scenes — cheering at homecoming games, pulling all-nighters, subsisting on pizza, ramen and beer.
“The biggest aspect of the college experience is networking with like-minded peers,” she said. She’s confident she’ll do that with other fellows.
Still Siddiqui, who has never spent more than a week away from home by herself, is not without reservations. “I think what I’m most worried about is, what if I do all this work and get what I want, and I’m not satisfied by it? That’s probably the scariest thing.”
She laughed. “But I don’t think that will happen.”
Siddiqui said fanfare about her fellowship is “sort of embarrassing. I haven’t really done anything yet.”
“This is just the beginning,” she said. “This is opening a door.”