Kitchener-Waterloo

2 Laurier graduate students talk about benefits of ISOW program

Manar Naeem and Zeina Akshar are two graduate students at Wilfrid Laurier University who left Syria to study in Canada under the University's International Students Overcoming War (ISOW) program.

Manar Naeem and Zeina Akshar are both from Syria

Manar Naeem (left) and Zeina Akshar are two recent graduate students from Wilfrid Laurier University who left Syria to pursue educational opportunities in Canada through the ISOW program. (Submitted by Tai May Wee)

Manar Naeem and Zeina Akshar — two participants in Wilfrid Laurier University's International Students Overcoming War (ISOW) program — spoke with CBC K-W this week about their decision to leave Syria and their next steps.

ISOW, a student-led and student funded humanitarian initiative, aims to respond to the damaging impacts on students living in war-torn countries, by providing scholarships to enable them to study in Canada. 

"For me it was a great opportunity," Naeem said.

"Not just because I want to stay away from war, but because it's a life dream to continue my education [at] a high-quality university and it opens wide doors for me."

Naeem and Akshar spoke with Craig Norris on CBC K-W's The Morning Edition about their journey to Canada and their future plans.

Akshar, who was born and raised in Aleppo Syria, said war got in the way of her education with bombings happening near her school.

She was excited about moving to Canada.

"I was just looking forward to it that I wasn't fearful at all of the unknown ... it was honestly surreal for me to land in Canada."

For now, Akshar is taking a gap year to earn more qualifications needed to complete a masters degree in clinical or therapeutic neuroscience or neuropsychology.

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