The first step to success!!

It was back when I first entered elementary school, that my views, opinions,[and] imagination started to grow. I was excited partly because I will finally get to change my old school uniform, and wear a new one that suits the new academic level I reached. But just as how symbolic this transition was, so did the process of climbing the academic hill. The main focus of schools here is to achieve marks. In consequence, you can observe how students tend to memories the facts rather than understanding them, so they can get marks faster. I still remember my French teacher telling us: “If you saw this word in the sentence, then you should pick that choice” without even understanding what’s going on. Same things in physics or math. You can see how students can solve equations, integrate or differentiate, but if you asked them what is it that you doing, they probably wouldn’t know.

The problems even intensified when I entered high school. I remember back in 11th grade, when my physics teacher called me to solve a physics problem on the board in front of the class. I solved it and was proud of my achievement, until my teacher grabbed the eraser and erased it all. I still remember his words “well Maan, it’s correct but it’s not how it’s solved in the teacher’s books. You want marks, right? Then stick with how I solve” These words were devastating for me. The same thing would happen in math and chemistry classes. The funny thing in chemistry is that I spent 6 years taking the subject without witnessing, not even once, a reaction between two compounds. When we ask our teacher, he would say “I’m sorry kids, the compounds in our lab are outdated, and can be dangerous”. However, Through my academic life, there were some teachers who would really care to let you understand the subject, and would do whatever they can to assist you, but sadly they were so few and rare.  In consequence, the ideas of pursuing a better education were all over my head. Their power was enough to push me into seriously considering them.

From a small town in the Syrian province of Tartous, my dream started to take its first steps into reality. It was a lengthy, hard, demanding, but a rewarding process. The US was my choice, and to be more specific, a couple of liberal arts colleges. I was fascinated by everything about this type of colleges. It was like my educational dreams were coming true, except it was better, because I got to discover a lot of things I didn’t know that those colleges could offer to me in terms of learning.

Safita
My town “Safita”

In March 2016, my goal made became a reality. I was accepted into 3 of my colleges. A week later, I made my decision to attend a college in the state of Maine called Colby. It was really the happiest time of my life. Finally, I’m going to have 4 years of an education that I always dreamt of

Colby
“Colby College”

I always loved Computer science, and knew deep down myself that it’s one of the things I want to pursue in life. However, it was not the only thing! I started recently to develop some interest in Economics. My plan is now clear. I’m going to combine those two interests during my college experience in the US next fall.

I have huge expectations of myself in the future, and I’m going to exploit every moment to let them happen. However, looking now to my social surrounding, I feel like the ultimate aim of my life is going to be significantly connected to Syria. Our education in Syria is so lacking. Great people with great minds and talents are being left behind. We need to radically change how we are taught in our schools. We need students who are passionate for learning, eager to understand and be creative. I don’t know yet how I’m going to be part of the reforming process, but deep down of myself, I know that I will.

About the author:

Maan Qraitem was born in Safita, Tartous. He graduated from a public Syrian high school in May 2016.  He is going to be part of Colby college class of 2020 in Waterville, Maine. Maan’s plan for study is a combination of computer science and economics. When he thinks of Syria, he thinks of a better education because, in his opinion, it’s the only way out of our crisis. Through Syrian students for a better future blog, he aims to write more about his experiences in Syria, and his expectations of Syria’s future. Maan may be reached at m.qraitem@gmail.com

Suhaib was born in Kamishli, Syria, and earned his bachelor’s degree in December 2014 from Illinois Institute of Technology’s Armour College of Engineering, with earlier studies at Aleppo University and Damascus University. Suhaib majored in Civil Engineering with a concentration in structural engineering. Upon graduation, he accepted a position as a project engineer working on projects throughout the state of Illinois; he lives in Springfield, Illinois. Suhaib previously worked with Jasmine Baladi Studio, an NGO that works to support Syrian children in refugee camps in Turkey. Suhaib regularly writes for the Syrian Students for a Better Future Blog.

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