June 10, 2019Print | PDF
Crossing the stage during Wilfrid Laurier University’s spring convocation ceremonies will mark the end of Hiba El Miari and Mary Saleh’s time as Laurier students, but just the beginning of their lives as international alumnae inspired to pay their Laurier experience forward.
El Miari, a Palestinian refugee from Lebanon, and Saleh, from Syria, are two of four students graduating from Laurier this month with scholarship support from the student-led club International Students Overcoming War (ISOW). The club, based at Laurier’s Waterloo campus, provides scholarships to international students whose education has been impacted by conflict in their home countries. ISOW has provided 16 scholarships since 2016 and three additional scholarship recipients will begin studies at Laurier in September.
El Miari will graduate June 12 with a Bachelor of Science degree. She hopes to become a professor and inspire future generations of students through experience-based learning opportunities.
“Learning outside of the classroom is just as important as learning inside of it,” says El Miari. “You learn so much about yourself, the community you’re in, your culture and the culture of others. That kind of learning is not possible in the classroom.”
During her time at Laurier, El Miari represented ISOW at the Canadian Student Leadership Association conference, organized a student symposium about the realities of human conflict for ISOW and served as a student representative of the Biology department. She also formed the Laurier Arab Student Association and was a member of Laurier’s first women’s cricket team.
El Miari has plans to eventually return to Lebanon as a professor. The biology major says she would like to open a research facility focused on botany and microbiology that would also offer high school students hands-on research experience ahead of university.
Saleh completed course work for her Master of Arts degree in English in December and will graduate June 10. She is paying her Laurier experience forward by supporting refugee youth. Saleh works at Reception House, a community organization that provides resettlement services to government-assisted refugees in Waterloo Region.
Inspired by support she received from ISOW and Laurier’s Department of English and Film Studies, Saleh started a soccer skills program for girls of families assisted by Reception House and Levant, a refugee support organization which funds the initiative.
“You should give back to your community no matter where you are,” says Saleh. “I will never forget how welcoming and supportive the Laurier community was to me.”
The Kitchener Soccer Club donates field time for the program, which runs on Friday nights at Cameron Heights Secondary School in Kitchener and is offered free of charge.
Saleh played on Syria’s first national women’s soccer team in 2005. A knee injury keeps her from playing the sport, but not from sharing her skills and passion.
“Sport is universal and has the power to create community,” says Saleh, “I hope to familiarize new families with recreation opportunities in Waterloo Region and help connect the girls to new friends in a sport they enjoy.”
Gavin Brockett, a Laurier associate professor and ISOW’s faculty advisor, says he is excited to see what graduating ISOW scholars will contribute in the future.
“Their academic achievements are to be celebrated, as is the support from the Laurier community,” says Brockett. “Together, they have created genuine intercultural learning and the foundations for effective global citizenship at Laurier.”
Read more about ISOW at Laurier: