From Syria to Dalarna University

Hussam Almsalati worked as an architect in Aleppo until 2012 when the war in Syria broke out, making it impossible for him to continue in his profession.

Having studied at the university in Aleppo, he is now furthering his studies at Dalarna University. Currently, he is completing his placement as part of the Engineering Programme, Building Technology, where he is a much-appreciated colleague.

Painful Memories

His escape from Aleppo began May 2014, when he left his home country as well as his wife and then 4-year-old son.

"I travelled by bus from Aleppo to Lebanon, then flew onwards to Turkey then travelled farther to Greece by boat. I did not want my family to endure that perilous trip. It took three months for me to get to Sweden. I doubted my decision many times and was close to returning home, but it was my parents who encouraged me to keep going so that I could find a safe place for me and my family," explains Hussam. He describes how it is difficult for him to talk about that time. Painful memories remain with him as does a great sadness over what has happened in Syria.

In August 2016, he was reunited with his wife and son, who by then was 6 ½ years old. His parents remain in Aleppo.

Responsible and Involved  

As a trainee at Dalarna University, Hussam has taken on a good deal of responsibility while receiving lots of support and encouragement from his colleagues. Hussam's Swedish has improved greatly and he now has the courage to ask questions and talk.

"I've attended meetings and been part of activities with Jonn Are and I have even been in charge of student labs," he explains with a smile.

"It means a great deal to me that at last I feel as though I can understand and communicate in Swedish. These few months at the University have been much more worthwhile than the language courses I took," he states. He hopes to build on his bachelor's degree with a Swedish master's degree, and it looks as though that is not far off from happening.

New Programme Means New Opportunities

"The construction industry is hot right now," says Jonn Are and goes on to talk about the new programme that will begin at Dalarna University in the autumn of 2017, namely a Master's in Energy Efficient Built Environment. This is a one-year programme and the language of instruction is English. The programme aims to cover sustainable and economical life-cycle analyses, environmental certification systems and energy system perspectives.

"This programme should make it possible for more people who have studied outside of Sweden in the field can learn about Swedish construction engineering, get a Swedish degree and therefore become more attractive in the labour market. The interest in sustainable energy systems is increasing within the construction branch," explains Jonn Are.

New Perspectives and a Sense of Gratitude

For Jonn Are, his time as a mentor has been both life-changing and enjoyable.

"Being Hussam's mentor has been incredibly rewarding," he says. "I have gained insight and broader perspectives on life and know that we've got it really good here in Sweden. When the opportunity to be a mentor came up, I saw it as my chance to contribute to something meaningful. I too have learnt lots."

The meeting between Hussam and Jonn Are has meant new knowledge and understanding, personal development, new insights and broadened perspectives for them both. What is more, Hussam has found new hope and curiosity that will take him into the future.

"I am so grateful to have had this opportunity," he states.

"We're the ones who should be grateful," adds Jonn Are. "To be honest, I don't know how we'll manage without Hussam. It's not just us who have helped him. He has reminded us of what is important in life - and a great deal about Syrian construction engineering too!"

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