Osama Sharkia came to the UK from Syria as a refugee. While difficult, this didn’t stop him from wanting to further his education, gain new skills and be able to give back to society. Now studying BSc Computer Science with Foundation Year, Osama is an active member of the Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN).
Osama always wanted to go to university. Since arriving in the UK, he has gained the qualifications he needed to start higher education. Starting with KRAN, he studied GCSEs, and is now a Youth Ambassador, working to help other refugee youth at KRAN use computers, phones and the internet. His work with KRAN led him to Canterbury Christ Church University.
With friends already at CCCU, for Osama this was a good choice over other universities. But it was also a massive step. Osama’s first language is Arabic, and he had not experienced as much formal study as most other students. Osama has been supported through a Personal Academic Tutor who provides advice and guidance, with his fears allayed by the university's friendly, welcoming atmosphere.
Three months into the Computer Science Foundation Year, he particularly enjoys the Computing in Society module, and says that his study has built his skills.
So far, the Foundation Year has prepared me for academic writing, further learning and presenting. The modules have enhanced my problem solving skills. Working with coding has helped me think differently, to break down problems in stages. I use the library for assignments and research, and the staff are great. They are there to help if I need to use the computer or find a book. The academic team have helped with Harvard referencing. Studying for a degree is a great way to learn.
At the beginning, Osama found it more difficult because he was not used to studying, was fearful and lacked confidence to ask questions, especially because of the language. It was a personal battle to overcome and build confidence. Similarly, making friends was difficult.
Now, with the help of CCCU staff he is confident, asks plenty questions, and has made many friends.
The Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) has been a huge support for Osama as well as other young refugees. KRAN helps equip them with practical skills and knowledge to start a new life, think about their future, and develop. Osama first started to work with KRAN as a trainee, where he assisted other young Arabic speakers to gain confidence in English. He then was made a Youth Ambassador with KRAN’s Youth Forum. In this role, he has supported other refugee youth, has given talks on refugee issues at schools and colleges, and has even been called on to bring his ideas by the Houses of Lords. Osama has become an advocate for young refugees, to tell their story, and fight for change. His journey to Canterbury Christ Church University started with KRAN, and he now has stepped forward to bring his skills back to KRAN and to young refugees in Kent.
During the Covid pandemic, student course work everywhere went online and refugee students felt particularly isolated. Osama developed training approaches to teach newly arrived young refugees how to use devices, how to interact online, and use the internet safely. This was empowering and is why he chose to study Computer Science.
Osama wants to one day work for the UN. A degree makes that a possibility. For now, he is focusing on finishing his and first wants to work for a local company to gain experience. He's also keen to encourage other young refugees to consider university.
You need to take the step, even if you are afraid. Whatever skills you have, university always makes them better. Even after only three months, I’m already better at the things that I was already good at. I write better reports, do better research and work better with people. University builds your skills and amplifies who you are.