After experiencing what had been nearly 6 years of war-instability, I finally reached the end of my high school journey in my beautiful city of Aleppo, Syria. These 6 years taught me that life is much shorter than one expects and that the meaning of life lies in working hard and never giving up no matter how dark it gets. Thus, I decided that in order for me to survive, and achieve my dreams, I needed to seek my way outside Syria to a place where I can free myself from the daily pressure and blurry future I had been facing every day. So from that point, I channeled all my focus towards finding a scholarship that can help me cover my expenses and set off to a new journey. I emailed many admissions offices in many universities around the world inquiring about their acceptance rates and scholarship opportunities. I went through many scholarship websites. And from those, I applied to several universities and scholarships. I had to travel multiple times across the country on dangerous and long trips in order to do my TOEFL and SAT exams. I received several rejections and tons of my emails were ignored.
After several months that involved lots of writing, interviews, and adventures, I received the email that changed my life. I managed to get a full scholarship funded by Al-Ghurair Foundation for Education to pursue my undergraduate Computer Engineering degree at Koç University in Istanbul. It was the first beam of light that shone at the end of that dark tunnel. From that point, I had only one challenge left to defeat, and that is obtaining my visa. Because of the political tensions, there was no embassy I could apply for in Syria, so I had to travel to our neighboring country Lebanon and apply from there, which itself was a huge obstacle due to the travel restrictions on Syrians, not to mention the security checks being done by the authorities before approving the visa. I remember waiting stressfully every day to hear news from the embassy about the result of my application. I kept waiting for 40 days without any news or reply. I missed the orientation week and the first week of classes waiting nervously at home. If I could not get my visa, all my efforts in the last year and hopes would go to waste. On the weekend after the first week of classes, I got a phone call from the University informing me that my visa was approved and ready to receive. I immediately set off to Lebanon and I managed to get my visa and fly immediately to Istanbul.
I still clearly remember the moment I landed in Istanbul. I felt like I was reborn as a new person. I was taken by shock for the first couple of weeks by how beautiful the university’s campus was and how great it felt to live a normal life again. I felt an energy and excitement I had never experienced before. I am very grateful for my scholarship and for the Koç University community. Here in Istanbul I learned a lot, made friends, won competitions, took part in many fascinating experiences, and most importantly I set my first steps towards the future I dreamed one day of pursuing.

Nazir Nayal

Computer Engineering / AGFE Scholar