Growing up in a family that valued women’s education, it was only natural for Sarah Khalil, currently a Ph.D. student at Memorial University in St. John’s, Canada, to pursue higher education. Hailing from the city of Lattakia in Syria, Sarah was raised in Damascus and graduated from Damascus University with a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Engineering.
For Sarah, Jusoor’s 100 Syrian Women, 10,000 Syrian Lives scholarship came at the perfect time; she was working and teaching elementary students in Damascus and the war made it difficult for her to make the journey to work safely. Her dreams to continue her education at the forefront of her mind, she started researching scholarships.
“Jusoor’s scholarship was the perfect fit for me because it promotes women’s education,” said Sarah. “My parents, especially my mother, always pushed my sisters and I to further our education. My sister was the first in the family to land a scholarship, and that really encouraged me to go for it, too.”
Sarah was supported by Jusoor to pursue a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering at Memorial University and has recently transferred to a Ph.D. program. Her research will focus on the application of statistical experimental methods on high strength concrete.
Her belief in the importance of women’s education has instilled in her a desire to promote science and engineering as a more mainstream career path for women. “The role of women in society is something that I really believe in, and even in St. John’s, it’s not very common to see women who want to pursue science and engineering,” said Sarah. Since moving to Newfoundland, Canada, she has spent her time volunteering for the Women in Science and Engineering Graduate Student Society at the university, and later the Women in Science and Engineering Newfoundland and Labrador (WISE-NL).
Sarah’s passionate involvement as a volunteer-led to her election as the Executive Director for External Affairs at the Graduate Student Union at Memorial University, which advocates for its members through campaign strategies directed at policy-makers. “Volunteering and civic engagement are not really emphasized in Syrian schools, but I’ve always felt that volunteering is a great opportunity to give back to the community, meet new people, and learn about new ideas.”
“I don’t think I would be the person I am today without the opportunity that Jusoor provided me with,” said Sarah.
“To lift up any society, it is so important to invest in education. If you’re going to do that one family at a time, the best way is to educate women because that’s the main step to building a better future.
If you consider the name of the scholarship “100 Syrian Women, 10,000 Syrian Lives”, for example, you can see how educating one woman can positively affect so many people around her. She will not only benefit her family but will always advocate for education as well. My advice for other Syrian women would be to have a goal and do whatever they can to achieve it. It’s hard work, but the more you do, the more you get in terms of reward,” she continued.
After completing her Ph.D., Sarah would like to continue promoting women’s education through teaching and working in her field. She hopes the situation in Syria stabilizes so she can one day help change the way women consider higher education back home.