Fatima's story


Fatima and her family were forced to flee their home in Syria when a missile destroyed their home. Now, as a graduate of the UNHCR Refugee Scholarship Fatima is studying for a Masters Degree in Astrophysics at the American University of Beirut (AUB).   

“I was in 8th grade when the war started in Syria. One day when I was heading to the basement, a missile stroke a green field next to my home and I fell. The next day, I received news that my best friend’s house was struck by a missile and that she had passed away. Later on, my school turned into a military base and the only operating school nearby was 30 minutes away by foot. I would run to the school under open fire, in order to ask about certain things that I didn’t understand. With all the chaos, I sat for my official exams and passed grade 9. 
As the situation started getting worse in Aleppo, we had to move to Lebanon in October 2012. I was a month late to registration but I made it into 10th grade with no English or sciences background. In Lebanon, the educational system is completely different from the Syrian one. In Syria, everything is in Arabic, whereas here, it is in English. It was hard, in the beginning, to adjust, but I managed. My classmates and even teachers made fun of me for not understanding English. This pushed me to learn through YouTube and eventually, I could understand sciences as well. During my final year, our maths teacher left the school and his replacement was not good, so I had terrible grades in this subject, which accounted for one-third of the total average. So I only got 50% but, in the end, I passed. 
After I passed grade 12 in Lebanon, I started searching for higher education scholarships and discovered the UNHCR Refugee Scholarship. I applied with no hopes of getting accepted but, thankfully, I did. I started my bachelor's degree in Physics at the Lebanese University. The first year was terrible as I didn’t understand anything. Because of the war in Syria, I did not attend many of the classes, even though I passed. So I had no idea about physics or chemistry. With my weak background in these subjects, it was a big challenge to catch up when I enrolled at university. I used to read reference books, to study harder than my peers in order to succeed. Three years later, I finally graduated with a good mention and never repeated a class twice. 
I was very anxious about my future when I was still an undergrad. I did not have any chance to continue my studies at the Lebanese University, so I had to find other ways. I applied to the American University of Beirut, with a good GPA, but they rejected my application at first. However, two days before the start of the school year, they called me to tell me that I was accepted! It was a very beautiful surprise! 
I am now pursuing my Master's here, in Astrophysics. I am very ambitious and one of my goals is to win the Nobel Prize in Physics one day, or to work for NASA! When I was a child, one of my dreams was to become an astronaut. I have always been interested in everything related to astrophysics. That is why I chose Physics as my major. 
This scholarship has given me the opportunity to push myself farther than I can imagine and overcome all the obstacles that were ahead of me. My journey will not stop here. I will keep on pushing myself to help my community and myself in whichever way I can. 
I believe in something: being a refugee does not mean that you cannot have dreams. You need to dream big in order to achieve big. The future is waiting for us. Eventually, we will have to go back to Syria and rebuild our country. So we have to face our fears and navigate through them. Syria really needs us. There are many generations who are waiting for us there. We have to help them, to make the future beautiful for them. 
My father calls me 'The Legend'! (laughs) He always tells me: “You did the impossible”. When we came to Lebanon and I went to high school here, it seemed impossible to pass the year. My English was horrible and I did not have any idea of the subjects... But I did it! When I was accepted for my Master's degree, he cried a lot. He told me: “You are about to achieve your dreams; you are about to turn the impossible into reality.”