Sherbrooke CEGEP student from Syria wins prestigious $100,000 scholarship

Amar Farkouh, who came to Canada from Syria as a refugee four years ago, was awarded the Loran Scholarship, earned on the basis of character, service, and leadership.

Amar Farkouh beat out 5,000 scholarship applicants nation-wide

CEGEP de Sherbrooke student Amar Farkouh plans to use the $100,000 Loran Scholarship to pay for medical school. (Spencer Van Dyk/CBC)

When 20-year-old Amar Farkouh found out he'd received the prestigious $100,000 Loran Scholarship, he screamed so loud his parents were worried the late-night noise would wake the neighbours.

Born and raised in Syria, Farkouh came to Canada as a refugee with his parents and older brother four years ago.

He got the call that he'd won the scholarship as he walked through the front door of his family's Sherbrooke apartment, just after returning from national interviews for the award in Toronto.

"She said 'well congratulations', and I don't even remember what she said after that because I started screaming, and my parents were asking what was happening," Farkouh said. "They didn't know I would get the call so fast."

The Loran Scholarship, distributed by the Loran Scholars Foundation, is awarded on the basis of character, service and leadership.

Farkouh beat out more than 5,000 applicants for the funding after rounds of regional and national interviews.  

The CEGEP de Sherbrooke science major is a tutor and teaches Syrian children about life in Canada by organizing activities.

Now in his final semester, he is in the process of applying to medical school, which he plans on paying for with this scholarship. 

He said one of his top priorities is being a positive influence on young Syrians in Canada.

"I've met a lot of people during my childhood who were these positive guys during the war," Farkouh said. "During the war it was a difficult time, but we had these people who helped us and made activities."

"I thought it was my turn," he said, adding he wants to help alleviate the pressures of a new country, school, culture, and language for young Syrians moving to Canada.

Inspired by parents' return to school

Farkouh said his inspiration comes from his family: his mother, Hadil Mansour, was a pharmacist in Syria, and his father, Ghassan Farkouh, was an engineer.

"We fled because of the war, but we had this goal that we were coming here because we wanted better studies, we wanted to be safe, and we had a goal that we wanted to succeed," Farkouh said.

"Each day we sat down — me, my parents, and my brother — and we talked about all the difficulties that we were facing and how we can pass them and perform better in this society," he added. "We always had this goal in our heads."

In Sherbrooke, both parents have gone back to school. That has been a challenge, according to Ghassan.

"It's not easy for me and my wife, but we decided to come back to education because I think it's good to be an example for our children," he said. "After 30 years, we are back to sit in the same chair like a new student in university."

Amar Farkouh, left, says his parents Hadil Mansour and Ghassan Farkouh are his inspiration for going back to school. (Spencer Van Dyk/CBC)

As for Farkouh's older brother, despite having almost completed his studies to become a pharmacist in Syria, he started over at Bishop's University when he didn't have the proper course equivalencies. Now, he is studying to be a pharmacist again at the University of British Columbia.

Farkouh said his brother's unwillingness to give up on his dreams inspires him. 

"Without a doubt, I expected my children to reserve a special place for themselves in Canadian society because they are patient, persistent, and diligent," Ghassan added. "They do not know the impossible, despite their great difficulties."


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