Montclair State University is one of the top five universities in the United States hosting Syrian students displaced by war, according to the Institute of International Education for Higher Education in Crisis. A campaign called Books for Bombs is appealing to colleges and universities around the country to offer as many scholarships as possible to students affected by the destructive war zone.
Every day, thousands of Syrians make the decision to leave their homes, often after seeing their family and friends killed, or their neighborhoods being bombed. They risk being caught and shot for attempting to flee their country due to the political unrest brought upon by the deadly civil war that has killed more than 300,000 people and forced millions from their homes.
Montclair State student Asem Alshamah, 45, came to America in July 2013 to earn his masters in Nutrition and Food Science at Montclair State University. He had been working as a medical doctor in Syria for more than 18 years. He was the head of the Intensive Care Unit at one of the largest cardiovascular hospitals in Syria and the region. Alshamah secured a great job, a family, and life seemed perfect in Syria. However, Alshamah and his family were apart of the grueling five year civil war that has left millions in need of humanitarian assistance.
“When the war started in Syria, life became very risky and dangerous. I had several friends, doctors, pharmacists and nurses, who were kidnapped, detained or killed for either their money or for their political opinion. “ Alshamah says of his experience living in an atmosphere of devastation.
The dangerous lifestyle in Syria made it impossible for him to live his life without fear of the future. He and his family set out on their journey to a country where himself and his family could feel safe, accepted, and dignified. The Alshamah family is now safe in the “dreamland,” America. Alshamah sought a new life, and chose Montclair State because it offered him a program that correlated with his previous medical experience.
“There are people who sacrificed their lives trying to help others in this devastating war. I did what I can do to save innocent life in Syria while I was working as a doctor. However, I had the chance to save my life and my family’s future. Others weren’t able to have this opportunity”
Eighteen-year-old biology major, Sam Al Safranin, moved to America from Syria in June 2013 to escape the most horrifying days and nights of his life. Each day brought a fear of being caught in the crossfires and left behind. Before the civil war, Safranin described his life as ‘very simple.’ He comes from a loving home where the love of family and friends was endless.
“I was always in the fear of getting shot, going to sleep and never waking up, or going to school and never coming back or coming back to not finding my home or my parents. It was a scary nightmare that I lived through.”
Although he has fled Syria, the nightmare has not concluded. He still experiences flashbacks to the days he did believe he would live to see the sun rise. He also fears for his father’s life who still resides in Syria.
Safarjalani felt at home on Montclair State’s campus when he visited, inspiring him to become an Undergraduate Admissions Ambassador. He is passionate about his school work and serving his campus community.
“I love being a Red Hawk”, says Safarjalani of his experience so far at the university.
Montclair State students take pride in the fact that their school is so accepting to students from the Middle East who have found a home as a Red Hawk.
“I think it’s amazing that Montclair is so accepting of Syrian refugees. As a result of the political unrest, an education is simply not possible for Syrians. By providing an opportunity for those affected by the war, [Montclair State} would not only be helping that individual by giving them a chance they may not have been granted otherwise, but also strengthening the diversity on campus,” Montclair State student James Clark says of the university granting Syrian students an opportunity.