Giving Back: Sabah's Story
When my family left Syria, I had finished the ninth grade and we came to Reyhanli, Turkey where I had to spend the first year out of school. That was one of the hardest points of my life. I felt like my future was slipping right through my hands.
The second year we were in Reyhanli, I entered a temporary education center for Syrians and eventually enrolled at Salam School. That’s where I was first introduced to Karam Foundation. I finished my secondary school studies at Salam and quickly realized how different and difficult it was going to be to apply to universities in Turkey. The system is so different from Syria. In the end, it took me a few years to try to sort through the whole process. I mean, when you look at us university students now, none of us entered college with our age group. All of us are a few years behind because of these hardships.
When it came to getting into school, the first thing I realized is that I needed to improve my Turkish and take the Turkish language equivalency courses. But those courses are really expensive, especially for a student or those of us who don’t have the financial means. But after learning our concerns, Karam Foundation provided us with a TOMER course and instructor to improve our language skills.
It didn’t end there. I also had to take the YOS University entrance. It’s a hard exam, with really fast-paced math and critical thinking questions. But that isn’t even the hardest part. Each university only accepts one version of the YOS exam. You have to figure out which university you are going to apply to and take that specific exam.
But the books to study for the YOS are expensive, and so are the courses. But some Syrian math teachers gathered together and tutored us for the exam at a lower cost.
What I realized though is that once you take the YOS exam once, you start to understand the testing strategy. So I ended up taking the exam three times. But honestly, it was difficult to even get to the test. Just the transportation to the different universities to take their exams costs so much money that we didn’t have.
I ended up receiving a high score on the exams and entered Osmaniye University. That first year was really difficult. I had high grades in my classes but I was getting a lot of pressure from my parents to enter the engineering school. But honestly, I never saw myself as an engineer. So I ended up transferring into Trabzon University’s Faculty of Media Studies after two months of being in university.
It’s been difficult, if I’m being honest. Trabzon is in a new city with a new environment far from my family in Reyhanli. It is not just a new city but also a big city. And anyone will tell you, no matter how good you are at Turkish, the classes are difficult. They use words I have never heard before, and didn’t learn when I was studying Turkish.
I’ve had to learn how to live on my own. With laundry with food, with friends. By the time I got acclimated to everything, it was deep in the year. I also had to start three months behind because I transferred universities and it took a lot for me to catch up. But eventually, I got used the professors and used to their teaching style. In Turkey, it is all so much different than in Syria. The way they communicate, teach subjects, give tests and even treat the students, it was all new to me.
But things are so much better now. I feel like Syrians here have a good reputation as smart, hard-working students. Especially with English. It is known now that Syrians are really good at English. It was shocking to them that we knew so much English. So now they know that Syrians are smart and we are good at languages.
My hard work and the constant support from Karam Scholars is what has gotten me this far. I feel like the best part about Karam Scholars is that the support is not just for a limited period of time. It is for your whole educational journey. The support you need is there from the beginning until the end. This is the most important part because that way, Karam doesn’t just give us the freedom to make our dreams a reality, but they show us how.
Karam foundation stands with the students. Since the days of Salam School, Karam has been on our side. Anything we want we can go to Karam and they listen to us. We don’t feel like there’s this authority who is too important to speak with us. There is always a channel of communication between the staff and the students. When we have a problem they work with us to find a solution and they take our needs and wants into account. And all of us students know each other now. We trust each other and we can lean on each other.
At Karam House we are a community that helps each other. We play chess, we eat breakfast together, we joke around. We really are never alone. Now there’s so many of us that can help the students to enter university. A few of us will be working at Karam House this summer, to help students enroll in University and the scholarships. We want to give back, and now we have the space to do it in Reyhanli!