Dear Jusoor Family:
Last Saturday, May 18th, was a very proud day for Jusoor. 15 Syrian men and women graduated from Illinois Institute of Technology. What a joyous occasion. These students, like the thousands of other Syrian students who are graduating this spring from universities around the world, worked tirelessly. Conditions facing Syrian students could not be tougher. In the case of the 15 women and men at IIT, they transferred in the middle of their education from Syrian universities to a completely new system, they had to work tens of hours each week to support themselves, and they had to take networking to a mastery form rarely seen in order to land internships and jobs.
Syrian students, we salute you! Your determination to complete your education and prepare yourself to lead the future of our beloved country, despite the hardest conditions imaginable, is extraordinary. You give us hope and we are beyond proud of you.
Let’s take a look at some of the remarkable achievements of our IIT graduates:
- They are starting jobs at companies like Goldman Sachs, Intel, Google, IBM and Nokia. WOW. What a list. Even graduates from top universities in the US don’t find jobs with such great companies. This is determination at its best.
- The awards they have received since arriving on campus two years ago include:
- Being invited to deliver a TedX talk on campus – entitled “Drone Delivery – Closer than you think” …. WOW
- Being invited to deliver the student address at graduation
- Making the Dean’s List (6 of our graduates)
- Meeting President Clinton as a reward for becoming finalists in the Up to Us competition
- Receiving the IIT Presidential Scholarship
- 1st Place for Best App Idea, Microsoft Chicago Hack
- 2nd Place for Monkey Bars Hackathon
- Elected President of the Undergraduate Business Council
In their own words, the students reflect on their university experiences:
- “My greatest achievement at IIT was studying at IIT. By coming from Damascus University and studying, graduating from IIT, I know that everything is possible and we can do everything as long as we work hard for it.
- “My time at IIT was not only about education. It was about learning how to be a leader, a team worker, a woman in technology and a part of a very diversified group that taught me a lot about the world. Being a women in the technology field helped me gain powerful advice from powerful women in technology and to pass the small experience that I have to high school girls.”
- “I had so many achievements during my 3 semesters in IIT that I am very proud of, but the one I am most thankful for is the friendship that I gain with many of Jusoor team members, IIT faculty and the Syrian group. it made me feel that I am home.”
We are deeply grateful to IIT for the incredible support they provided to these students — ranging from helping them adjust in their first days on campus to guiding them through the recruiting process. In particular, Vice Provost Gerry Doyle, along with Megan Mozina and Gladis Herst have been heroes to all of us and the students throughout the past 3 years, making this program a reality.
And finally, and most importantly, thank you to everyone in the Jusoor network who has supported these students. So many Syrians around the world donated their time, money, and expertise to support, mentor, coach, and inspire these students. What an incredible community. Together we made a difference in the lives of these 15 students and their families (who the students are now supporting).
To the graduating students: Now it’s time to think about what you can with your education for your brothers and sisters in Syria. How you can support hundreds and maybe thousands of other Syrians over your lifetime with the power the education you have received. Let’s get started!
The Jusoor Leadership Team
Editors note: This post originally appeared as an email from Jusoor; we are pleased to share this message with our readers across some 125+ countries.
Today marks our 150th blog post! As of today, we have reached nearly 40,000 views spanning more than 125 countries around the globe. Shukran!
Since our very first blog post went live in August 2012, our mission has represented the following ideals:
**The IIT Syrian student blog is an independent writing project led by undergraduates enrolled at Illinois Institute of Technology that provides a non-partisan and non-political platform for reflections about our experiences as students since our arrival at Illinois Tech beginning August 2012. Our goal is to build a better a world and future for Syria and Syrian undergraduates whose education is being shaped by the current crisis in higher education in Syria.
**We do this by sharing our narratives and by adding context to our education. Over time, we hope that our collective stories will contribute to greater clarity, deeper reflection and more sustained conversation as to the role of higher education during a time of crisis.
**In addition, we hope that our narratives will support and amplify the efforts of our undergraduates across our globe who experience the disruption in their own educational experiences through war, violence, conflict, poverty, natural disaster, discrimination, prejudice, and other factors leading to the loss of their ability to further support their country and communities because they are unable to pursue advanced studies and research.
**The IIT Syrian student blog has had two editors and one associate editor since its inception, and we are grateful to the ongoing support of the entire IIT Syrian student community for their contributions and regular writings as well as our other supporters from other institutions and from within the IIT community.
**We want anyone who visits our blog to learn and share what’s happening within Syria, the MENA region, and our world. We’re fielding your feedback and ideas and suggestions. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
As we think about the next 50 posts, we hope to not only continue to provide you with the best content but to continue fostering a stronger dialogue with our supporters and beyond in order to keep our large community better connected as well as to help ensure that more and more students have the opportunity to further their higher education aspirations, and to truly transform their lives and the lives of their communities and our country of Syria.
We couldn’t be more excited about reaching this milestone and would like to give an extra special thank you to all of our dedicated readers, and guest bloggers, and for your contributions and for your feedback and comments over the last nearly three years.
The people of Syria inspire us. We owe our country and our people everything.
The Syrian student community of Illinois Institute of Technology 25 May 2015
I can officially say I am an engineer. Usually I don’t study electrical engineering, but when I do it takes me 7 years. I still remember the 17 year old me entering University of Aleppo in 2008. I didn’t expect that in my fourth year I would have to leave my home, family, and friends behind. I spent one year in Turkey, and after that I was offered a scholarship at IIT. No words can express how thankful I am for this opportunity.
That wouldn’t have happened without the help of many people. People I owe my life to. I say thank you to every one of you. I thank my mom, dad, brothers, and sisters for being the best support one can ask for. I thank my friends who are brothers to me: Mazen, Tareq, Felix, and Suhaib. I thank my friends from back homeAbdulaziz, Ahmad, and Abood. I thank Geraldand Megan and every one else who was a part of making the Syrian Initiative possible.
My degree is in remembrance of my best friend Ahmad Alhaj Khalaf, who was a 2nd year Medical Student, and all of my friends and family members who died in the ongoing war back home. My graduation day is for all of you.
My interest in data science and open data specifically comes from the open data movement. In this movement, collaborators set a goal to standardize and provide data to everyone. People can use this data to extract knowledge for their benefits and some decide to share their models and results for the benefit of other societies. This has an amazing impact due to the reproducing characteristics that data science’s models provide. The open data community works on this characteristic to support equality.
After a year of engagement in the Chicago’s civic tech, I have – along with a dedicated team of my fellow students from IIT – won the Healthy Chicago Innovation Challenge by proposing a model works on open data. The project aims to “decrease the number of food-poisoning cases in Chicago, using predictive analytics from Twitter to flag potentially dangerous restaurants for inspection. The goal is to conduct inspections at restaurants before people become sick.”
Representatives from the City of Chicago and Chicago Department of Public health will help us in implementing this project. On the other hand, a Harvard team is working on the same thing, and they are collaborating with the City of Chicago in attempt to reproduce this model for all states.
This is the second part of 3 blog posts about my experience in Berlin for the last 18 months, and what we can learn from Berlin in the context of the current situation in Syria. In the last part, I talked about the fall of the Berlin wall and how we can take that as a symbol for hope, that no matter how long a bad situation lasts, it will come to an end. In Part II, I will be talking about the current recovery of Berlin after it suffered decades of separation and instability.
Berlin today is considered one of the best cities in Europe, and probably the most vibrant city in Germany. It is a very diverse city, people come and enjoy it form all over the world and it doesn’t matter where you come from or what is your taste like, you will probably find a place for you in Berlin. Today, Berlin is a global cultural center for arts, music, films and much more.
One phenomena that can’t be ignored in Berlin is the internet startup scene there. There are thousands of internet startups in Berlin. Many of them are leading globally in their categories like SoundCloud in audio content and Wunderlist in productivity related apps. Others crossed the startup phase and had their IPOs like Zalando. This phenomena is creating thousands of jobs. It is also encouraging innovation in the digital era. Some people would call Berlin the European Silicon Valley. It is not only people who already live in Berlin that start companies or work for a startup, but also people form around the world come to Berlin specifically to start a company or to work for an internet startup.
The cluster of the internet firms in Berlin is still young (less than 7 years old) and there is a long way ahead for all these firms to prove themselves and achieve global and local success. However, the ecosystem seems to be on the right path and it is getting a lot of global recognition. If people work hard enough and believe in what they’re doing they will achieve success.
Entrepreneurship is key to building any economy. Every company has the potential to create jobs it could be 10 in the first year, 20 in the second, 200 in the third if it was successful. Everybody should be aware that starting businesses is not enough, but making them sustainable and profitable is what matters at the end. We should encourage and support entrepreneurship in Syria, and initiatives like Jusoor’s entrepreneurship competition was a great example of what can be done to help young people take the risk. Again, starting a business is not enough what matters is building a sustainable profitable business that brings real value to people.
Currently pursuing master degree in computer science from Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen. Before that, he worked as a product marketing manager at LiquidM Inc, a SaaS mobile marketing platform based in Berlin and San Francisco. Prior to that, Omar earned his bachelor degree in computer science from Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen. Omar was part of the first group of students chosen for the Jusoor IIT initiative in 2012.