Studying in Aleppo: ‘You get used to seeing blood on the floor’

Feb 2, 2017 by


Related imageWhen Enana al-Assaf was bombed during an exam, she made herself carry on writing. Now doing a PhD in the UK, she worries every day about her family in Syria

Enana al-Assaf was just five minutes into a pharmacy exam at Aleppo University when a bomb exploded next door. The then 22-year-old student says she’d heard the deafening noise of a military plane before the bomb hit. Then the building shook, glass smashed down on top of her, and screams and shouts erupted from the floors above.

As she sat frozen in shock and shaking, the invigilator gave her a choice: she could make her way to safety and repeat the exam in the summer, or stay there amid the chaos and finish it.

“What are you going to do?” Assaf asks. “Education was number one in my life. I wasn’t going to stop just because it’s dangerous.” So she, along with most of her classmates, stayed and completed the exam. As they worked, a second bomb exploded outside. And when they left hours later, they passed blood and ambulances on their way home.

Now 26, and living in the relatively peaceful city of Norwich, Assaf says she wants to help Syrians missing out on their studies due to the conflict.

She herself has been offered a scholarship to study a PhD in cancer research at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and says the opportunity has changed her life. “We have so many smart people in Syria who can’t continue their studies,” she says. “They really want to finish their degrees, but can’t.”

Universities are struggling to operate amid the war. Where they can, students try to complete their degrees but for most it’s not easy. Assaf lived close to an air force intelligence building, a target for bombs and snipers. “You get used to seeing blood on the floor,” she says. “And you just say: ‘thank God I wasn’t there five minutes ago, otherwise I would have been hit.’”

Source: Studying in Aleppo: ‘You get used to seeing blood on the floor’ | Education | The Guardian

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