Farouq Aldandashi, 28, completed his Masters degree in Newcastle after escaping his war torn homeland. The Northumbria University student survived university at the height of the Syrian civil war. Farouq studied for an MSc in Disaster Management and Sustainable Development last year after being awarded a prestigious Chevening Scholarship.
Chevening is the UK’s government’s international award programme, aimed at developing global leaders. Farouq was chosen for the award due to his 10 years of experience working in the NGO sector. As a 17 year old, he wanted to help people and contribute positively to his community so he began volunteering for the Red Cross. He stated that he “never thought that helping people in this way would bring a smile”
Farouq spoke about the differences he had experienced in the North East, as compared to the Middle East. “Literally everything was different… I feel much more comfortable here… nobody can judge me.”
When Farouq was attending his first year in Wadi International University in Syria, the country was undergoing a period of civil unrest which descended into a civil war. He noted the fear he had from the drive between home and university, “there were six checkpoints on my 20-minute journey”.
His parents were keen that he continued his studies throughout the war as they wanted to ensure that he had more future opportunities. However, when he began working, inflation rates were increasing due to the war which led to him making the difficult decision of leaving his family and moving to Turkey. He worked in Turkey for the International Medical Corps and Care International for a few years until he secured the government’s Chevening scholarship and was granted an opportunity to study in Northumbria. He had thoroughly enjoyed his time studying in Northumbria. “the people here are beautiful. They have treated me well” He stated.
Farouq is due to complete his full-time course at the end of September and is now beginning to look for a job. He mentioned that “this prestigious scholarship equips me with the arsenal to have a great role in Europe… Being Syrian means you don’t have the luxury to choose where you would like to go. However, I have faith… and though I have lost everything in my life, I will not lose my ambition.”
Northumbria University’s International Partnerships Manager, Alejandra Vicencio, stated: “… we should feel very proud that Farouq chose to come to Northumbria via this scheme. I am very glad to see that someone coming from this situation has been able to take advantage of this opportunity.”