Nabil AlHaffar, Class of 2018
What are your best memories about being born and raised in Syria?
Well, I do remember a lot of stuff. I remember our family gatherings; I always loved these. Moreover, I remember my schoolmates and how we would spend our recess in between classes just chatting, laughing, and playing some sports. For instance, our basketball and soccer games used to be always tense and enjoyable. I also recall the occasional tournaments we would enroll in with a bunch of other schools. Our weekend would start on Thursday and that would be when we usually hung out without being surrounded by school supervisors. If I were to go on writing about this, it could be endless.
What do you miss the most?
Of course, it has to be my mother who put a great deal of effort towards fulfilling her duties of raising my siblings and I to the best we can be.
What about Syrian culture makes you most proud?
I believe it’s the hospitality that rendered Syria a great host to a lot of tourists.
Why did you choose to come to the US to study?
Well, I followed my brother’s lead. However, it was mainly because the University of Evansville offered me a great scholarship that one does not easily pass on.
What challenges did you face while traveling here?
The first challenge was as minor as getting accustomed to a new sleeping pattern. After that comes trying to live in small room, shared with a partner. Mainly, the biggest challenge was the constant stress of responsibility one feels trying to live independently. Moreover, being a Syrian citizen, I am often worried about my parents, who are still living in Syria. Last but not least, missing the people I left behind, some of who I might not reunite with again.
What were your preconceived notions about Americans before you came here and how have they changed?
I actually never took the time to think about that before my arrival at UE. However, I intuitively thought they were friendly and so they were.
How does it feel to be a Syrian student at UE in 2016?
It feels great, especially with all the care and tenderness we get. Moreover, a lot of Syrian colleagues that study at UE make it worth the while.
Does your family still live in Syria? If they could speak in this forum, what would they say to us?
Yes, they are. Um, maybe “take care of our children.”
What words come to mind when you think about Syria’s civil war?
How have things gone so far? It was so unnecessary.
In your opinion, what is the solution to the current political crisis and where do you see Syria ten years from now?
Simply, forgiveness. People ought to forget their personal vengeance and work on rebuilding their homeland. I know how unrealistic it sounds at this point, but definitely vindictiveness is a far cry from a solution.
Under what circumstances would you go back?
Well, I know how imprudent this sounds but I would literally put my life under extreme risk in order to see my family and friends.
What else do you want us to know about Syria, and about you?
Syria is a great country that opened its doors wide for a lot of Arab refugees, but unfortunately, didn’t get the feedback it deserved for its generosity.