730 days: both a lifetime and a blink of an eye

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Summer 2013. The war in Syria continued but events were unfolding that would change the trajectory of my life forever because a small group of people at Illinois Institute of Technology, EducationUSA, the Institute of International Education, and Jusoor were working to support university students like myself whose higher education was halted by conflict.

The life changing opportunity was given to me by Illinois Institute of Technology offering me a scholarship to finish my education in United States.

After leaving from Syria to Egypt in 2012, my university and professional future seemed bleak. I was in my 4th year in Damascus University when I left Damascus, and due to the political circumstances in Egypt, advanced undergraduate students from Syria were ineligible to be accepted as a transfer student. The only option available to me was to begin my undergraduate studies in engineering from the first year.

For me, this struggle and disappointment would end months later. The course of my future – and for my family – was altered when I received the best email in my life (so far). An email from Illinois Institute of Technology congratulating me on being accepted in their program to support the higher education in Syria, and offering me the chance to continue my education in Chicago.

The support that I received upon my arrival to the university was amazing. The Illinois Tech faculty and staff provided assistance nearly every day from the evaluation of my credentials, and advising to the numerous professional student organizations as well as those providing events and activities for student life and enrichment. I traveled to the home of an IIT alumnus for Thanksgiving (which would eventually lead to a network and my first job upon graduation). I met new friends from Syria, new friends from Chicago, and new friends from the more than 90 countries who attend my alma mater of Illinois Tech.

For me, the Office of Student Access, Success, & Diversity Initiatives at Illinois Tech represented a personal anchor for me and so many of my peers; the staff was there for us almost every day during our time at Illinois Tech (and even till now more than seven months after graduation). I remember going there for almost all the problems I faced and I got the support and advice every time I went.

The incredible life transformation I had during the past two years is just amazing. I was in a place where I left my country at my 4th year with no plans. And two years later I am working as a consultant for Illinois Department of Transportation.

Studying and working in United States for two years has been so far the best experience I had in my life; these days have taught me a great deal which I will carry forward. And along the way, I’ve learned several important lessons: • Always dream big. • Work hard, and expect the unexpected and open to possibilities. • Never forget the past or current circumstances of home. • Start from where you are and initiate specific actions for change. • Remember that we are all peacemakers. • We shall return, and rebuild our cities and Syria.


Suhaib Ibrahim

Project Engineer, TERRA Engineering

**The photo is for Civil Engineering school at Damascus University

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