Braa Bakfalouni

Student, Turkey

A young Syrian who loves engineering has turned his passion into a part-time job, contributing to the success of many other Syrian students facing difficulties in their studies.

Braa, 25, lives in Gaziantep in south eastern Turkey, and is a recent graduate of Mechanical Engineering from Gaziantep University. He come top of his department and ranked 2nd overall in the Engineering faculty, but Braa’s education was not always so promising.

While trying to continue his studies in Turkey having fled the war in Syria, he lost many years trying to adapt to his new environment. The struggle to settle in, learn a new language and appreciate a new culture taught him many important life lessons that have ultimately paved the way for not only his career, but in making friends along the way

He left Syria with his family seven years ago. Upon arriving in Turkey, they first settled in the border city of Hatay. Previously, the Bakfalouni family lived in a big house in Aleppo, where his mother worked as a dentist and his dad as an Arabic teacher.

Braa was in his 2nd year of a Bachelor’s degree at the Aleppo University when they had to pack up and leave because of heavy shelling. The trauma of the war, of leaving his home and the language barrier meant his life did not start until very recently. “I lost four years in total”, Braa explained, “two years in Syria, one year in Hatay without doing anything and one year studying English at Gaziantep University”.

An arrow
Braa likens his situation to an arrow: “You can shoot an arrow only by pulling it back. The more you pull it back, the further it goes”.

Compensating for the lost years, Braa was determined to make the most of every study day at Gaziantep University. And it paid off! He came top of the class year after year. “My aim was not to lose any more time, not to come top of the class. However, when I saw that I ranked first at the end of the first year, my plan changed in order to maintain my success”.

Syrian youth coming to Turkey face two challenges according to Braa: being able to continue their education and being able to afford to live. Having experienced both challenges, Braa views SPARK’s scholarship programme as a great opportunity as it provides the study fees to the university as well as financial stipends for students so they can afford to travel to the campus, eat and purchase study materials.

Spreading the success
Braa’s success has spread out to other Syrian students around him throughout his four-year degree. In his free time, he spent many hours helping friends with their assignments and homework.

“I knew that my friends were having difficulties in understanding the subject. I used to go and help them. Then, whenever I felt down, I met with other students. In time, this has turned into a hobby which kept me away from bad thoughts” he said.

Braa is now working with a humanitarian organisation that provides medical aid in conflict zones. Besides this, he is pursuing his Master’s education in Mechanical Engineering while continuing to teach undergraduate Engineering students. For him, education is a tool to widen one’s horizon and Braa is aiming high, wanting to pursue his PhD to help youth expand their thinking.

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