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ISOW offers a life-changing experience, personally and professionally

Aphrodite Al Zouhouri graduated with a Master of Education in spring 2020. Her research focused on the effect of war trauma on education. Aphrodite arrived in Canada in 2018. In her own words, she shares her experience and gratitude.

I found out about International Students Overcoming War through Jusoor's 100 Syrian Women, 10,000 Syrian Lives program. It was a life-changing experience, and it was rewarding and empowering for me both personally and professionally.

When I first arrived at Laurier it was challenging, like any new beginning in our lives. But the feeling I got from the ISOW team, my professors and colleagues that I was welcomed and supported eased all the difficulties.

ISOW volunteers are well-educated about our backgrounds and well-prepared for our arrival. If we struggle, they are capable of supporting or guiding us. We have a good connection with them – it makes us feel like we aren't alone. As international students, it can be difficult to find friends, but when we first arrived, we already had friends through ISOW. I still have ISOW friends that I am very close to.

Now I am working in the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies office at Laurier as an academic services assistant, and I am working on the admissions side. It feels great to have the experience of reviewing master and PhD applications knowing that my application went through this process in the past, and now who knows, I might review one of the coming ISOW master’s level scholars. My future goal is to develop a curriculum to help refugee students suffering from trauma and to create a trauma-informed school. I enjoy photography in my own time; it allows me to capture moments in my life that I don't want to forget. I like nature and the outdoors here in Canada, there are a lot of opportunities to walk! Every time I walk, I feel ease and calm.

I became a refugee in Lebanon in 2012. I struggled to get educational opportunities there; it is difficult to get a post-secondary education in general, so imagine how it is for refugees. Education is a powerful tool, and by supporting refugees' education, you are empowering them and empowering their futures.

There are stereotypes about refugees; I feel I have the responsibility to advocate for refugees' right to education. Yes, we can be vulnerable and need support, but we are strong, well-educated, talented and highly skilled people who just need opportunities to thrive.

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