Resilience Against All Odds: Maysara’s Journey to Durham University

Maysara, a Syrian refugee in the UK, tells us more about the conflict he had to witness as a child, his journey as a refugee, and his resilience to continue his education against all odds.


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My family and I were forced to flee Syria when I was 13 years old. We’re from a small village near Idlib. 

I still remember every small detail about that day. We really didn’t want to flee our home even though people kept warning us that our village would be attacked.

It was 6 o’clock on a very cold and dark morning in January. My father decided that we needed to flee our village when he knew that my uncle and his family were fleeing. We could hear the loud noises of vehicles and tanks getting closer – it was terrifying.

They were attacking the village near us. I saw it with my own eyes from the roof of my house. The whole village was completely destroyed in a matter of two hours.

We knew we would be next if we didn’t leave. So, we fled and left everything behind. We didn’t take anything with us except our IDs.

My parents decided to flee to Lebanon. I had two brothers there who were forced to flee Syria because they refused to join the army.

The journey from my village to Lebanon was the hardest. We didn’t know if we were going to make it out of there alive. We went first to Idlib, where my sister lives, and we bought bus tickets to go to Beirut.

There were checkpoints in almost every direction. We could hear the airstrikes around us and see the destruction. On top of that, it was freezing, and the snow had covered the roads.

On the way, my father’s voice trembled as he told us that Syria was no longer our home. At that point, we didn’t even know if we still had a home to go back to or if the army had bombed it.

After more than a day of travelling, we reached the Lebanese borders. It was such a huge relief.

I thought to myself: “We’re out. We are alive! From this moment, nobody will attack us or try to kill us.”

When we arrived in Beirut, I couldn’t go back to school. Lebanon was extremely expensive compared to Syria and I had to drop out and work to support my family. It was a hard phase in my life – I remember waking up every morning sad because I couldn’t go to school.

Staying in Lebanon was becoming harder. We faced a lot of racism there as Syrians. Some people there called me “the Syrian” instead of using my actual name. They would also ask me questions such as: “What are you doing here? Why don’t you go back to your country” or “Why are you stealing our jobs and our houses?”

After six years, UNHCR told us that we were eligible to seek asylum in the United Kingdom. I was really excited about moving there – starting a new life and going back to school after spending so many years away from it.

Maysara. A Syrian undergraduate student at Durham University.

Moving to the UK came with its challenges – a new country, culture and language. Everything was hard to do at the beginning because I didn’t know English. I didn’t even know how to reply to the simplest conversations.

I have been in the UK for four years now and after taking the time to resettle, I wasn’t going to let anything stand between me and my dream of going back to school. Although it was challenging, I knew I had to rely on myself in learning English – and that’s exactly what I did.

I used to read children’s books to learn English, and now I have two scholarships at Durham University. I’m studying Politics and International relations; a major that I’m passionate about. I was able to achieve this after spending only two years in the UK.

As a refugee, I know for a fact that refugees are vulnerable, especially when they flee to another country that they know nothing about. They don’t know where to go, how to get help or even do the simplest tasks like shopping.

By supporting refugees to integrate into their new communities, refugees will feel like they belong somewhere again, and they can start rebuilding a new life.

Later, refugees will try to give back to their community by helping others, and others will help others – It’s all a circle of understanding and supporting each other.

To read more stories like Maysara’s, please visit this web page.

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