Student refugee builds new life in Canada

June 20 is World Refugee Day, an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe, celebrate their strength and courage, build empathy and understanding for their plight, and recognize their resilience in rebuilding their lives.

Georgian welcomed our second sponsored refugee student through the Student Refugee Program in partnership with World University Service of Canada (WUSC) in August 2023. Luay, a refugee from Syria who was living with family in Jordan, is completing the last level of our English for Academic Purposes program and staying in residence at the Barrie Campus.

We connected with Luay to hear about their Georgian experience and hopes for the future.

Tell us about how you came to Canada. I was living in the city of Daraa where the Syrian revolution started. Within a year and a half, it became unsafe to be there. My family sought refuge in Jordan with the intent to return when the war ended and get back to our home. But things worsened.

Student refugee Luay downtown Barrie at sunset

Before I came to Canada, I studied software engineering in Jordan at Zarqa Private University (I didn’t complete the program). As refugees, we weren’t allowed to work, especially in positions that depended on the field I was studying in. We were very limited in what we could do, and employers took advantage.

I worked 12 hours per day to earn what was equal to $12 Canadian.

So, I decided to leave Jordan to study elsewhere.

The Student Refugee Program was a turning point for me – it gave me hope for building a new, stable life. Refugees have survived the ravages of war both physically and mentally. We should get to enjoy our basic human rights.

What’s your experience at Georgian been like so far? My experience has been wonderful. The staff are friendly and helpful. The professors are professionals; they make sure students get the right and full information – with a good education level. I’ve made a lot of connections and friends from the community and people who come from the Arabic region. Next semester, I plan to apply for computer programming and to finish what I started. I dream of completing my studies and working in the field.

I find residence a safe and comfortable place to be. I use the library a lot as a quiet space to study in and have got lots of helpful advice at the Language Help Centre. In addition to receiving support from the Segal International Centre, I’m also an international ambassador and assist others with their transition to Georgian and Canada.

How would you describe Canada? Canada is a beautiful country.

Canadians are friendly and welcoming people.

After arriving on Aug. 31, I started to explore the city of Barrie. I like downtown and the lake, and I like the city’s building style. Life in Canada is easier since, as refugees, we’re legally allowed to work, move and study.

Refugee student Luay outside at the Barrie Campus near blossoming tree

What do you like to do for fun? I visit my friends, walk outside and watch movies. The most important thing is to keep learning. So, in my free time, I view and read tutorials on the internet about different fields such as programming, math and physics.

Any hopes for the future? My current hopes are to finish my studies and start working on what I’m good at. I want to see the day when wars and destruction end, especially in my country, which has suffered from the severity of war for more than 12 years.

About the Student Refugee Program

The program is the only one of its kind to combine resettlement with opportunities for higher education, supporting more than 150 refugee students per year through active partnerships with over 100 Canadian university, college and CEGEP campuses.

Students are provided with tuition and living expenses for one year, after which time they’re supported in finding employment, financial aid and/or scholarships to cover the cost of the remainder of their studies.

As an official Sponsorship Agreement Holder in Canada, WUSC has a longstanding agreement with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. This agreement enables the program to bring refugee students to study in Canada as permanent residents.

Crucial to the program’s success is its unique youth-to-youth sponsorship model, which empowers students in Canada to play an active role in the sponsorship of refugee students. Campus-based Local Committees raise funds and awareness for the program in their community. They also play a critical role in offering day-to-day social and academic support to newly arrived students.

We’re a global college with students from all over the world who enrich our classrooms, campuses and region. Their experiences and perspectives are invaluable and shape who we are as an institution and community. Luay is a fantastic addition to the International Student Ambassador team. It’s inspiring to see him become more confident and engaged as part of the Georgian community. I’m excited to see how his journey at Georgian develops as he begins his next program in the fall.

– Brittany Madeley, Manager, International Student Engagement

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