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LEARN: Shihab's Story

by Soumya Adusumilli

Learning is boundless. No matter what circumstances you are in, no matter what you are fighting, if you have the passion to learn, then you can learn. 

In 1995, as a fifth grader, Shihab had to leave school because of his family’s financial problems. He worked at a spice factory for ten years and completed his mandatory military service. After he got married, he was looking forward to completing his education. There was just one problem.

Shihab didn’t have a valid certificate to apply to a middle class degree. After endless studying and hard work, he obtained his literacy certificate and successfully applied for a middle class degree in 2006. 

While working from 7am to 7pm, he educated himself at night. Everyone around him thought he was an old man. Why was he working so hard to do what a 9th grader should be doing? Why was he pushing himself so hard at that young age? That’s what everybody thought. But Shihab proved them all wrong with his perseverance, determination, and passion for learning. 

After ranking second in his Baccalaureate exams, he successfully finished university in 2011 without failing any subjects. With his education, Shihab wanted to help those who suffered the same circumstances he did as a child. He obtained a diploma in his university’s faculty of education and began teaching. 

To celebrate his achievement in education, check out the advice Shihab shared with us about his struggles and personal experiences in the Q&A below: 

As a refugee, how has education improved your life for the better?

One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it to someone else. By doing this, you can understand the material better and you can help someone else. It’s a win-win situation! Because I was out of school for 10 years, I developed a passion for learning and teaching at the same time. Education has benefited me and I hope to use my skills to prevent children from going through what I did as a child. 

My dream is to teach all of the Syrian students in Lebanon. I want them all to have an education. I don’t want to leave anyone behind.

How did Paper Airplanes help you to educate yourself?

I came to Lebanon alone and all of my educational papers were in Syria. Because of this, I stopped practicing and learning English. However, when I joined Paper Airplanes in 2016, it helped me to revise all of the English that I learned at university. I sharpened my skills in reading comprehension, writing, and listening. Paper Airplanes helped me to improve my level of English and gave me the tools to teach my students. 

Do you have any advice for other refugees?

Never give up! Whatever age you are, wherever you are, don't give up on your passions. Even if you are 40 like I was, there is no age to stop learning. Don’t panic and keep going!

Do you have anything you want to say to encourage other refugees to educate themselves?

All refugees around the world should learn English. English is an international language and everyone can succeed by learning it. Learning English from scratch at an old age with two children is a nightmare. Begin educating yourself now! 

About the author:

My name is Soumya Adusumilli and I am a first-year Business Administration student at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California. I truly enjoy reading, writing, and watching movies in my free time. I have been a part of Paper Airplanes since 2018 and I'm glad that I have the opportunity to continue my journey with this inspirational organization. I am also involved in entrepreneurship and lead The Intrepid which is the voice of my college's entrepreneurship community. In the future I hope to accomplish my lifelong dream of visiting the seven wonders of the world!

The views and opinions represented in this post belong solely to the author of the blog post, and are not representative of the views and policies of Paper Airplanes and its staff members.

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