The world has been a crazy place the past year, and sometimes in America we get enclosed in a little bubble far away from the troubles of the world. That’s one of the reasons why study abroad is so great, because students get a chance to travel the world and gain a wider global perspective on life. Berkeley student Nour Coudsi took the chance to give back during her year abroad in London, by volunteering with Syrian refugees. Here is her experience…
I ended up applying to the University of the Arts, London. I chose the university’s journalism program as it was a production based program to complement my media studies theoretical studies background. I also chose that program as it was based in Europe.
As a media and journalism student, I was very much interested in the ongoing refugee crisis. In San Francisco, where I was living while attending Berkeley, I felt too far and extremely isolated from what was going on the other side of the world. However, this semester, at the University of the Arts, London, that is not the case anymore.
In London, I am having the opportunity to have journalists who have covered the refugee crisis at Vice, Buzzfeed, the Guardian, CNN and BCC as professors and tutors. The refugee crisis has been a part, a topic, or even a theme for all the courses I have taken this semester. I had career advice from tutors who have worked with refugees first hand in Greece, and all around Europe. I made connections with photographers, filmmakers and fixers who pursue careers that are very similar to the one I want to start.
In London, the refugee crisis rhetoric is very much alive and going. There has not been a week where I didn’t attend a talk or an event on the topic. I was also very lucky to get introduced to two great initiatives for Syrian refugees. The two initiatives offer one-on-one refugee support through language classes.. At Ahlan W Sahlan, the first group I volunteer with, volunteers and newcomers get together once a week to discuss how newcomers are adjusting to their new lives in the UK. As I just moved to London too, I enjoy my time there as I am adjusting to a new environment just like the rest of the group. As a Syrian, and Arabic native speaker, I connect with everyone I work with on so many levels, and I definitely understand what others are going through. The other initiative, Education4All, also connects a newcomer with an English native speaker so they can get together once a week for a language class. As my semester is coming to an end this week, I am focusing on covering refugee stories for all my assignments. Thus, I am so glad that I got the opportunity to start getting more involved with the refugee community as I have hoped before moving to London.
I should have graduated back in Spring 2016, however, UCEAP has given the opportunity to stay a student for an extra full year, study the program I wanted while being abroad in London. Ten weeks into my study experience today, I am incredibly thankful for this amazing opportunity and I am sure that this was the right choice for me.