A SYRIAN couple are today celebrating graduating from university – in Sunderland.
Despite the pressures of knowing members of their families are caught up in the conflict back home and arriving in a new country with their two-year-old son Ahmad, Zaki Bahrami and Rim Day graduated yesterday at the Stadium of Light.
Both have spent the past year studying for their MA TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), while juggling parenting duties and even finding time to become student ambassadors.
Zaki, 33, from Aleppo, said: “It’s a wonderful feeling to be graduating alongside Rim today, we’ve supported each through so much and to get to this stage makes us both very proud.
“We loved the course and have settled into life very well since arriving in Sunderland. We’ve been made to feel very welcome.
“We can’t thank the university’s International team enough.”
Zaki and Rim met as a result of their mutual love for learning English and both studied for their degrees in Aleppo.
The pair married in 2010, but travelled to Saudi Arabia to begin a new life and teach English at the same school.
After two years, they hoped to further their education and met Ian Moody, international regional development manager, at one of the University of Sunderland’s International Higher Education fairs.
Ian said: “It’s been great to support such a wonderful couple on their journey from when I first met them in Riyadh. They have achieved a lot from what have been difficult circumstances to contend with back home.”
Zaki has been working part-time teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) at the university, and they are both applying to study their PhDs in English at Sunderland.
Rim, 26, said: “We both really enjoyed the course and found the lecturers were very supportive and understanding that we have a different education style.
“We were used to the traditional methods of teaching English in Saudi Arabia, but when we came here it was a much more communicative approached that students share information with each other.
“We are both applying for our PhDs and will hopefully teach abroad in China or Turkey.”
Zaki added: “One day, we would love to return home to Syria to share what we have learned, but it is still too dangerous. We do miss our family and friends and worry about them every day, but we try to get on with our lives as best we can.
“Our son is also settling in well at nursery and is now learning to speak both English and Arabic, which is wonderful.
“Of course, the weather is a little different, it’s a bit colder than our country.
“We have really settled in well and can’t praise the staff and students highly enough for making us feel welcome.”