Vestavia Hills native named Fulbright semi-finalist

A Vestavia Hills native and UAB alumnus was recently named a semi-finalist in the 2022 Fulbright United States Student Program competition.

Zahab Aleezada was among a small number of students named semi-finalists for the prestigious award, which places students in international exchange programs to live and work in foreign countries. Although she was not chosen as a finalist, Aleezada said she was still honored to be a semi-finalist.

“It was really shocking and exciting for me,” Aleezada said. “I was delighted.”

Aleezada, a neuroscience major at UAB Honors College, said she felt validated and appreciated when she learned she was a semifinalist. She didn’t know what to expect with the process, she said.

Her plans were to study and serve as an English teaching assistant in Spain and if she applied again she would have a lot of credibility, she said. She said she was incredibly proud of herself.

Her immediate future includes working at her mother’s neurology clinic in Jasper as a medical assistant, helping patients who come in for epidurals. Aleezada takes a year off and applies to medical school. This process is long and exhausting, she said.

“We’ll see what happens next year,” she said.

Aleezada’s goal is to be a physician and serve Spanish-speaking residents, crossing the language barrier. She minored in the language and thinks it’s crucial to be in touch with Spanish culture because of the large Spanish population in the United States.

“I’ve always found myself comfortable in health care settings,” Aleezada said. “I do not deprive myself of it. I tackle it head-on. »

Aleezada said she has always admired the role doctors play in society and the impact they can have on their patients.

“As a doctor, you have to be able to solve complex problems,” Aleezada said.

Aleezada grew up in Vestavia and attended schools in the city of Vestavia Hills until middle school, going to Vestavia Hills Elementary East and Pizitz Middle School before going to the Alabama School of Fine Arts, where she graduated in 2017. The school system is “really amazing” at helping students reach their full potential, she said. Aleezada was part of the gifted program at East, which she says prepared her for ASFA, which she described as “incredibly rigorous”. She said she has also benefited from the caring and supportive staff of Vestavia Hills City Schools.

She also thanked Vestavia for her commitment to diversity, which has allowed her, as a Pakistani-American, to form lasting friendships.

Being a neuroscience major sounds “really daunting,” but Aleezada said the professors at UAB are amazing and able to teach students well. She learned about brain anatomy and processes, did research, and more. As she was writing a thesis for her graduation project, she said it didn’t seem like the biggest burden because of the help she received from UAB professors.

Although she plans to apply again for the Fulbright scholarship, it would not be the first time she has studied abroad. Previously, she studied in Morocco, working as an English teaching assistant in this African country.


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