New Brunswick

Syrian newcomer's dream of university finally comes true

When Muhammed Reyis's family was forced out of Syria and moved to Turkey for work, his dreams of graduating high school came to an end.

Muhammed Reyis finds out he's been accepted at UNB

Muhammed Reyis, who came to New Brunswick as a Syrian refugee, is realizing his dream of going to university after being accepted to the engineering program at UNB.

When Muhammed Reyis's family was forced out of Syria and moved to Turkey to work, his dreams of graduating high school came to an end.

"We had to work there to support our family," said the 20-year-old, who grew up with four siblings. "We weren't able to go to school."

He knew better than to dare dream of going to university, he said.

Then the Reyises signed up in Turkey for a program that could allow the seven-member family to immigrate to Canada.

There were hurdles, Reyis said, but eventually the family was accepted and arrived in the country two years ago.

"On the first day I came to Canada, I wasn't even able to say my name [or] how to introduce myself," said the teen, who now speaks three languages, including English.

Muhammed Reyis moved to Canada from Syria two years ago. He just got a scholarship from the University of New Brunswick to study engineering. 2:27

Welcome to New Brunswick

But soon, his old dreams about going to school were back. He was inspired by people who worked while going to school, so he got a part-time job at the Delta Hotel in Fredericton.

And he became a student at Fredericton High School, where he's relied heavily on his teachers and peers. He's also worked hard at his studies and has managed a 94 per cent average.

This week, the Grade 12 student was accepted at the University of New Brunswick, where he hopes to study engineering, a dream he had as a little boy.

"I met a lot of people in my classes going to UNB, doing engineering there," he said. "There's a lot of Arabic people here that I know that are going into engineering too, so they were all part of the decision that I made."

Got news at lunch

Muhammed Reyis with his family. (Kirk Pennell/CBC )
 Reyis found out he had been accepted while checking his email on a lunch break this week.

"I read the email that said, 'You have been accepted into the engineering program at UNB" he said.  "I was like, 'Does that mean I got accepted?'"

His English teacher reassured him — he was in. And the excitement continued once his parents heard the news.

In Syria and Turkey, Reyis said, his mom and dad never imagined him graduating from university.

"Oh my God, they were so happy," he said. "That was their dream since I was a little kid, to be able to do university and finish my education."

Good friends

Krista Reid was one of the first people to find out about Reyis's acceptance.
 Krista Reid was one of the first people to find out about Reyis's acceptance. She took part in the First Fredericton Friends program, which helps immigrant families get settled.

"The people that are coming here … are very driven," she said. "They want a good life. They want an excellent life for their kids."

When she signed up for the program, she was expected to visit the family four to six hours a week. That quickly turned to 20 hours, as she helped the family find an apartment and the children do their homework. This week, the family is getting help with their taxes.

"We just became such good friends," Reid said.

After he graduates from university, Reyis hopes to get a job in New Brunswick.

"I'm really thankful for being a part of this community," he said.