May you all turn your darkness into a very bright future!


In two weeks, I am glad to announce that it will officially be three full years of my living here in the United States. Three long years of tears, happiness and achievements. What an extraordinary opportunity I have received in coming to this country!

I consider myself not only incredibly fortunate to have been chance to this opportunity, but still, to this day, continue to live in the glowing light of it. Yet, opportunities are not just a matter of luck or a beautiful coincidence. They are also a combination of hard work and tenacity.

Syria itself is home to so many great human beings, a majority of whom are ambitious youth of who I believe would achieve extensive lengths of success if given the chance to live in the prospect of a fruitful atmosphere. I was so inspired to see the video of the first Syrian students who made it to the US by the great help of Jusoor, IIT, Monmouth College and IIE. It is even more inspiring to see those very same students arising to such high leading positions in the US work force and in their academic careers. I am so proud and honored to call them my professional colleagues and personal friends.

I would like to urge my friends and colleagues who are still in Syria and wish to aspire to continue to their studies abroad though to apply everywhere and never give up! You are the future of your country. You are the hope. I know you face difficult circumstances every day, and I can only imagine the fear and anger you feel because of certain political as well as inhumane deprivations and restrictions, but you still possess the ability to change your present lives for the better and to make your dreams a tangible reality. I always thought that arriving to the states is the dream! When I arrived, I realized that the dream itself was just born!

An enormous number of people supported my being here today, and I just can’t thank them enough! Today, I have a strong obligation to give back by helping others. I am so thrilled that I have a very effective weapon, one that spreads sounds of beauty not bullets – my violin. I have received so many wonderful opportunities to employ the use of my weapon. These extend speaking and performing at the White House and United Nations, and participating in huge fundraising events to support Syrian refugees and certain educational causes. Using the power of music to create a peaceful platform for everyone. Music is a universal language which can lead us to our core of our humanity. It can destroy the barriers that exist between us and form a bond between us, regardless of background.

We certainly need education and peace more than anything else to defeat ignorance and hate of our world. We need to rise up with current societies, both Syrian and American, so as to fashion a better future. American culture and people have inspired me in so many countless ways, and have made me believe more in humanity that resides in people’s heart.  I can’t wait for the day I am able to go back to Syria so to spread all the positive and optimistic values I learned in this country.

Life is all about the different kind of roads that lay ahead in front of us. It is up to us though to take the first step to what we want. I urge you to make your decision thoughtfully and freely. Follow your heart and never give up. The dichotomy of life is that we live with not just the light, but also with the dark. It is the obstacles of which are front of which therein add depth and meaning to our lives, and propel us to move forward towards the light. May you all turn your darkness into a very bright future!

Mariela Shaker
Master’s, Music Performance, Violin (expected ’17), DePaul University
Bachelor’s, Music Performance, Violin ’15, Monmouth College


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