One of Javlonbek Khamzaev’s happiest moments turned into one of his greatest challenges.
Javlonbek ‘23, Uzbekistan, in the spring of 2020 graciously accepted a full scholarship to attend UWC-USA. He finally arrived in Montezuma in August 2021 after going through a grueling 13 months to get his student visa.
New Mexico U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan helped make it happen.
Javlonbek, who had rarely traveled from his home in central Asia and looked forward to his first-ever flight, applied for his visa just as COVID spread worldwide. The U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, cancelled Javlonbek’s appointment. He tried embassies in neighboring countries without luck.
John Carpenter, director of admissions for UWC-USA, said things in Uzbekistan were so bad with COVID that the U.S. Embassy’s small staff was primarily serving only U.S. citizens.
“They gave almost zero non-immigrant visa interviews,” John said. “We waited and waited, and Javlonbek started online classes, but it was just too much given the time difference, and he wisely opted to take my offer to defer his admissions for a year, giving us more time for the U.S. Embassy to begin operating on a more full-time basis.”
“I couldn’t feel the community of UWC and the online courses were difficult,” Javlonbek added. “I was afraid of losing such a chance because I couldn’t get my visa.”
The 17-year-old applied repeatedly without success during the first six months of 2021.
“It was the most difficult months in my life,” he said. “Time waiting for the embassy to reopen went very slowly. I lost a lot of weight. It was like a big rock on my shoulders.”
As COVID eased up, the embassy in Uzbekistan didn’t fully restart and it looked as though Javlonbek would never get his visa, John said.
“And he wasn’t the only one. About 15 students (maybe more at the beginning) were facing the same problems,” he said. “Then Biden was elected and a subtle shift began across the world, except in Uzbekistan.”
That’s when John reached out to Lujan.
“Our students began to get their appointments, including Javlonbek,” John said. “We are deeply grateful for the support of Lujan’s office and we believe this added endorsement made a real difference in our students succeeding in obtaining their visa interviews.”
After 32 hours of travel, Javlonbek arrived in New Mexico on Aug. 9.
“I met my second-years,” he said. “They are so kind. It feels like this is my home.”