'One day I want to help rebuild Iraq and Syria'
Amaal is in the second year of her architecture degree. Like many of her peers she worked incredibly hard to get there. But her story is quite unlike the others’.
I remember it vividly. I was 13, at home in Iraq, sitting on my terrace in the sun. Suddenly a bomb fell metres from where I was sitting and exploded with the most terrifying bang. I was so close to being killed. It was after that my family made the decision to move to Syria.
Syria was the most lovely, safe country at that time. I grew up there and have the best memories of it. I studied there and finished high school. Then, in 2011, life became dangerous again. We were selected to be resettled in the UK.
The day I found out we were coming I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to move again. I didn’t want to leave my friends again. My school again. To leave everything behind for a second time.
The Syria that I knew isn’t there any more, though many of my friends still are. For the first three years after we moved to England, I was obsessed with listening to the news about Syria. Those were awful years. I cried myself to sleep at night. Only last year, I decided to stop listening to the news altogether.
But when we arrived in the UK, it was like a dream.
I was 20. I went to college and continued learning English. I learnt really quickly. My brother used to call me ‘the Interpreter’ as I helped the rest of my family with the language. The accent was quite tough at first to understand, but after four years in Hull I have the accent myself!
Without the support of the Refugee Council I would never have been able to settle in so fast. Resettlement completely changed my life because now I am living my dream – to study architecture. Now I am safe. Sometimes I still remember sitting at home in Iraq. I remember the sounds, the bombs. People dying in the street.
If the UK government hadn’t decided to help us I have no idea where I would be.
My experiences led me to want to study architecture. I want to help rebuild Iraq and Syria, those two beautiful countries where I grew up. For my dissertation next year I will focus on buildings for health and housing. That is what we most need.
I hope more refugees will be given the chances I was given. To be safe. To study. To have a future and to give back.