Syrian students who have fled their war-torn  country are scouting UAE universities to earn degrees that will one day help them rebuild their homes.
“We left Syria for a reason. We are not here because we want to enjoy our life away from the turmoil. We are here to better ourselves so we can go back and help build our country,” said Eman B, 19, from Damascus, who wants to study architecture.
According to the UN, more than two million people  have fled Syria to neighboring countries and more than half of those are children . The latest death toll shows that more than 140,000 Syrians have died as a result of the civil war, which started in March, 2011.
Gulf News spoke to Eman and other Syrian students who escaped the war and were looking for universities to enroll in at the Gulf Education and Training Exhibition (Getex), which showcases programs of universities and vocational institutes in the UAE and abroad.
Eman said her immediate family fled the country two years ago after the situation there started getting worse. She said universities in Syria are much cheaper  than those in the UAE. She would have preferred to study back home if the situation was better.
“I feel almost guilty for living in safer conditions than family back home. Although life here is good and we are treated well I feel like a stranger who is losing her country. I hope that the situation gets better and that I will have a role in that.”
Leen H, 18, from Aleppo, recalls vividly the day her father woke her up to flee her country.
“It was 9am my father woke us all up yelling that we have to leave the country. He was told that it was our last chance to leave. I heard gun shots as we left.”
Leen who is an honorary student, was struggling to find a scholarship as she does not want to burden her family with the university fees in the UAE, which she believes are much more expensive, in comparison to Syria .
Leen also hopes to study architecture to one day go back and rebuild her home, which has been taken by those involved in the civil war.
“I saw my house in the news on TV. They were living in it. It really bothered me because my parents and I are staying at my sister and her husband’s home, while our brand new house has been taken by rebels.”
Sandra Idilbi, 20, fled Aleppo two years ago with her family to study interior design at Al Ghurair University.
“If given an option I would still choose to go study and live in Syria. I feel embarrassed saying that because many people are living in terrible conditions back home.”
Sandra dreams of graduating and finding a job back home.
Nabih Mufti, 21, also fled to the UAE two years ago to study interior design at Al Ghurair University.
“I feel like a stranger, I have a constant fear of losing the safety and stability that I am living in. I pray for my country but things are becoming so bad that I have stopped watching the news. Living here makes me feel helpless and I hope that one day I will be able to go back and help renovate my country.”
By Noor Nazzal