Editor: Jessica Milsom

I was born and raised in Syria in a small town called Salamiah. I grew up in a small family with one sister, we were raised by a single parent as my mother passed away when I was seven years old, and my father never remarried. But I had a great number of cousins on my father’s side so it always felt like we were one big family.

My father passed away in my final year at high school and the way my sister and I had to cope with that had a great effect on who I am today. My sister had to leave to study in Portugal and I had to finish that year to get into medical school, as my father had wished me to do. 

The war in Syria started in my first year in medical school. Going through it and finishing my studies under such circumstances was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

I’m in Lisbon, Portugal now. 

I was able to get a scholarship to study Public health (master’s degree) at NOVA university with the help of the Global Platform of Syrian Students and the help of my sister who also came to Portugal from Syria two years prior. I did not know anything about Portuguese beforehand, however, since my studies were in Portuguese, and as I’m living in Portugal, I had to learn the language. 

My first couple of months in Portugal were challenging, learning a new language, adapting to a new culture, and living in a new environment far away from home was not easy. But being able to learn a new language and succeeding to study public health in that language is what has shaped my life.

Our scholarship provided us with a couple of courses in the first couple of months and I fell in love with the language. After that I tried to continue learning Portuguese on my own and that was when I discovered SPEAK. I signed up to be a buddy and taught Arabic, participated in multiple Portuguese courses and events, and got to meet a lot of new people, some of them are still my friends until today.

SPEAK was one of the main helping factors in my somewhat difficult beginnings in Portugal.

If I could give any piece of advice it would be that having determination is key. We are able to do almost anything if we put our minds into it, however, we are always going to need help and sometimes knowing where to find help is part of what we have to do.

Going forward, hopefully, I see myself finishing my master’s, and then continuing to study medicine and work as a doctor in Portugal. I want to also stay a part of the SPEAK community to try to help others just as others have helped me.

-Sincerely, Mohammad Abdeen

Mohammad in Syria
Don't stop here! If you are interested in learning a new language, join the journey at SPEAK! or become a buddy today and share your language with others and be part of something big! If you want to learn more about the members of our community check out Fernando's story here!

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