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Jusoor Syria High School Study Abroad Program

With the crisis in Syria stretching into its sixth year, Jusoor will continue to implement the High School Study Abroad Program to support Syrian youth who have demonstrated academic excellence, leadership, and a strong sense of civic responsibility. This program is implemented by Jusoor with support from the UWC Syrian National Committee (UWC-Syria), and leverages existing mechanisms of both organizations to rescue and enable future global leaders.

The need for this program

The Syrian crisis has claimed over 400,000 lives, and the number of those forced to flee their homes has exceeded a staggering 10 million. As aid organizations struggle to provide Syrians with access to food, clean water, shelter, and healthcare, another basic need, education, remains largely unaddressed yet is vital to the long-term viability of post-conflict Syrian society.

Even when education is salvaged, international development agencies and governments mostly focus on basic education for younger children; some institutions and universities provide scholarships for higher education, yet education for adolescents often remains unattended to. Students in this age group face great challenges as they move to different educational systems, are required to learn a new language to enter public school, or need to work to support their families. Even when they manage to earn high school diplomas.

In their homeland where there is war, educational institutes are often managing a high influx of internally displaced students themselves, and the brightest and most promising students end up without the education they deserve to fulfill their potential and become the future leaders who will help their community towards peace and prosperity.

Main program activities

Recruitment and promotion

The scholarship is promoted through outreach to organizations serving youth, social media, question-and-answer sessions online and in person. Eligible candidates are those who:

  • Are Syrian, or Palestinian with a Syrian travel document (Palestinian refugees in Syria);
  • Have an above-average academic record;
  • Have completed or are currently enrolled in 10th grade;
  • Are 16 – 18 years of age by September of the year they are applying in;

Applications are received from Syrian students based in either Syria, its neighboring countries, or around the world. Students who apply and who are abroad are those who have left Syria due to the crisis. Below is an illustration of the diversity of the applicant pool in 2015 as an example:

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Selections

Applications are considered complete if they included a complete application form, transcripts, letter of recommendation, and a copy of a Syrian passport or national ID. Cases where students may not have access to their transcripts due to the war are accommodated on a case-by-case basis.

Selection criteria

In addition to assessing skills, interests, and academic performance, applicants are assessed as individuals, group members, and members of society. The core criteria are:

  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Active commitment
  • Social competence
  • Personal integrity and responsibility
  • Ability to represent Syria

The collective pool of information the committee considers to assess an applicant includes:

  • The application form (with questions about where students have lived, what they’ve achieved, what they do in the areas of arts and sports, how they’ve helped others, what they would change in their society if they had only one chance, what they think is the most important experience in their lives, their ambitions, and why they think they should be selected).

  • A letter of recommendation.
  • Academic transcripts for the previous two years.
  • An academic test in English and Arabic languages, general culture, and math. We require basic proficiency in English; we maintain that if students don’t speak their native language well, then they are not good students, hence the testing in Arabic. Math is at the basic level of 10th grade in Syria; and general culture includes sections about Syria and the world. The rationale for requiring a test is having a single standard against which all students can be compared, ensuring that no one has helped the student with some of the input we receive. We have especially used the English and Arabic essays on the test in the past to learn more about the students’ values.
  • Skype interview (25-30 min.). We use previously collected information to formulate questions.
  • Potential additional Skype interview (also 25-30 min.), for a few students as needed.

Placement

Students are nominated to participating schools in the program, and schools have the final decision over accepting students. Factors that are involved in allocating students to schools are foremost “best fit,” where Jusoor assesses that the institution and the student are a good match, diversity preferences by the receiving schools, the ability of families to cover extra expenses if any (including plane tickets), and in a few cases, visa precautions based on our own assumptions and previous experiences of what works better in different countries.

Jusoor will communicate all conditions of admission, sponsorship details, and orientation details to the student. Partner institutions shall directly communicate with the students and their families any information about their formal acceptance, as well as all information pertinent to the program of study, dorm life, acquiring a visa, and other information that any international student may need. We ask that we are copied on all the materials the student receives before arriving at the academic institution to ensure a smooth transition, and to assist with the visa application process as needed.

Scholarship management, student and institutional Support, and reporting

Students are required to submit a report at the end of each semester with their grades and a progress report to Jusoor. Partner institutions are asked to help with that process as needed. We use this information to track students’ performance and offer support to them and the academic institutions where needed, and within our capacity.

Jusoor meets with the families after selections and offers an orientation program for the students before their departure to help them succeed, adjust to life after transitioning to another country, and make the best use of the resources that will be available to them. During the program, we include them in our 400+ alumni and current students’ group, allowing them access to leadership and professional development training opportunities, and a network of mentors around the world.

Meet The Students

NAWARA ALABOUD

NAWARA ALABOUDBefore going to Woodstock School, Nawara lived and went to school in Damascus where she studied French and English alongside her native Arabic. She has a passion for painting and dancing, but also enjoys swimming, running, and hiking — although she had some difficulty finding suitable places for it in Syria. After losing her home in rural Damascus due to the outbreak of the war, she has made it her goal to “be an effective part in building a world where money is not a handicap in getting good education.” She wants to use her education with Woodstock to help change the culture of violence across Syria by increasing people’s respect for diversity of race, gender, and religion. “Education and enlightenment is the only way we can reach and sustain peace.”

KHALED BAGH

KHALED BAGHPrior to starting at Woodstock School, Khaled was a student in Damascus where he was a distinguished chess player and an avid fan of mathematics. He studied English, French, and even began teaching himself Japanese. Khaled was also elected as a class leader and volunteered with the CircassiantheCircassian Charity Association, an organization providing help for those in need and organizing cultural events. He wants to use his education to help fight ignorance in Syrian society, by promoting understanding and peace. “Learning at Woodstock has definitely been a different experience. It’s very interactive, we do labs and write lab reports as if they were real scientific papers, we are required to do presentations, and teachers and the curriculum encourage critical thinking,” he shared with us.

LEA FARAH

LEA FARAHLea spent much of her life living between rural and urban Damascus, where she studied English, French, and German in addition to her native Arabic. As a member of Sawaed Al-Mahaba, Lea would often go hiking and camping, when she wasn’t singing with Al-Farah Choir. Lea is excited to use her education to advocate for gender equality across Syria, and is a firm believer that “empowering women should be the talk of every humanitarian organization.” Coming from a place where mortar bombs, bullets and explosions were the norm for nearly five years, she believes that obtaining an international education will help her pursue her passion for medicine, and improve the reputation of the Middle East across the world. She is currently studying at Woodstock School.

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