Riad Bakir, 23, fled the war in Syria joining over half a million other refugees in Jordan. Riad talks about having to leave his dreams of education behind and how the free courses on FutureLearn helped him to reclaim them.
Riad tells us his story…
The time before the war started was an extremely important and happy one for me. I lived in the suburbs of Damascus, the capital of Syria, and was studying a Higher National Diploma in computing. I had a lot of friends and we went to cafés every day to help each other with assignments. I spent my evenings with my family, helping my father with his work and spending time with my mother and brothers. Life was very beautiful then. Sadly, the situation in Syria began to deteriorate before I had completed my studies and our lives turned into a series of military checkpoints. Although I did manage to complete my course, I was eventually forced to escape my home and flee to Jordan where I am living today. I live in Amman with my brother, our days are now filled with job searches, struggling to find rent money and boredom. Every day we dream of getting out.
How has your experience of war affected your outlook on education?
I have decided to spend my time focussing on education rather than cursing the war. Education is important in uniting nations and aiding war torn countries, Syria is proof of that. I believe that education can build a culture of peace and so was very excited when I discovered FutureLearn. It has enabled me, in part, to realise my dreams and learn from some of the best universities for free and at a distance.
How did you hear about FutureLearn?
I spent every day searching the internet, looking for ways that I could get back into education. I reached out to many universities but, being one in thousands with the same goal, my voice wasn’t heard. When I found FutureLearn I was so happy. I love how many courses are available and signed up to ‘A beginners guide to writing English for university study‘, straight away. Luckily I have a phone with 3G network as well as a laptop and so I can study anywhere with a signal.
What opportunities do you think free online courses will offer you and people in similar situations to you?
They can break down the barriers to education that people face all around the world. Learning on a website like this will open many windows for people like me.
The courses arm us with the skills we need to progress and help us on our way to a good university such as, ‘Preparing for Uni‘ and ‘Study Skills for International Students‘. They also connect us with other people from all around the world giving us an opportunity to learn from others and share our stories with them too.
What would you tell your friends about FutureLearn?
I would say, someday the war will end and we will come back to our homes and our former lives to contribute to the reconstruction process in our country. In order to do this we need to learn new skills, this can only be achieved through education. We should all take advantage of the courses that FutureLearn offers to us completely free.
Since taking the University of Reading’s free online course, Riad has decided to apply to a British university full time and has recently started the application process.