Kitchener-Waterloo·Audio

2 Laurier grads reflect on move from Syria to pursue education and dreams

Both Meera Tawil and Bushra Al Jbawi left their family and friends in Syria to come to Waterloo to study at Laurier, as part of the International Students Overcoming War project. They shared their stories on CBC K-W's The Morning Edition.

'I don't wish it on anyone to choose between their dreams and staying with their family,' Tawil says

Meera Tawil studied at Wilfrid Laurier University through a program called International Students Overcoming War and a partner organization called Jusoor. (Supplied photo)

It's never easy to leave home and travel away to school, but it was a particularly difficult decision for Meera Tawil and Bushra Al Jbawi. 

Both women left Syria to move to Waterloo where they attended Wilfrid Laurier University. They came to the school via a program called International Students Overcoming War, which offers full scholarships to students from conflict areas, and a partner organization called Jusoor, a non-profit organization by Syrian expatriates that helps Syrian youth with education, career development and global community engagement.

"I don't wish it on anyone to choose between their dreams and staying with their family," Tawil said. 

"We do make it seem easy because we have no choice but to move forward and ... be committed to our ambition. But that does come at a large cost of spending time away from family and being away from your best friends and everything that's familiar is basically now in the past."

While she was in Waterloo, Tawil's father died.

"Definitely this education I received, even though I'm eternally grateful for it, it did come with a big price tag," she said.

Listen to the fill interview with Meera Tawil:

Meera Tawil left her family and friends in Syrian to come to Waterloo to study at Laurier. She says it was a difficult decision and even with all the experiences she's had in Canada, she is still struggling to find her place in this country now that she's graduated. 10:50

'I found myself without any choices'

For Al Jbawi, she says the decision to move to Waterloo was about finding a better path for her life.

"I looked just around myself there in Syria and I found myself without any choices or opportunities," she said. "I found myself very, very limited without ... even a chance to make my dreams come true there. So the only answer was to go abroad and seek like other degrees."

She says there's an image people have of war that includes bombs, missiles and explosions.

Bushra Al Jbawi attended Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo as part of a program called International Students Overcoming War with help from a partner organization called Jusoor. (Supplied photo)

"Even though we were affected by a lot of that and we were lucky to survive after that. But [war] is a lot of people who are full of anger and sorrow, who [have] nothing. They are just spending most of their lives running behind, having water, having warmth in their homes, having enough food for their children. And that's it." she said.

Listen to the full interview with Bushra Al Jbawi:

Bushra Al Jbawi came to study at Laurier from Syria because she says she saw no future for herself in her home country. She came to Waterloo thanks to a program at Laurier called international students overcoming war and she shared her story with The Morning Edition. 8:56

Over the last two years, CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition has shared the stories of other graduates from the International Students Overcoming War program. Read about more of the ISOW grads:

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