Refugee's 'inspiring' graduation photo 8 years after fleeing for his life

The inspirational story of a refugee went viral after sharing a picture of himself graduating eight years after fleeing war-torn Syria.

In 2012, Osama Abou Hajar published a photo of himself standing in the ruins of his decimated city, as well as a picture of him graduating from the Institute of Technology Carlow in Ireland last November.

The 27-year-old told Spiegel that he hoped his LinkedIn post, which received more than 500,000 likes, would inspire his friends back home to pursue their dreams.

Osama fled Syria in 2013 after bombing raids destroyed his hometown of Ma’arat al-Nu’man and even destroyed the top two floors of his apartment block.

He was studying electrical engineering and mechanical engineering at Aleppo University when the war broke out in 2011.

His city near Aleppo was one of the first places in the country to be bombed.

Osama told Spiegel: “In 2012 the city was almost empty. There were 500 people left, compared to around 150,000 before the war.

“There was a lot of destruction. We lived in apartments and the top two floors were blown up. My house was almost destroyed.

“The bombing was so loud. Bombs would fall 100 meters away and destroy glass and blow off the doors.”

Despite the danger, Osama did what he could to help those around him who were left behind.

In his LinkedIn closing post, he shared a picture from 2012 of handing a blanket to a man in the devastated city.

In 2013 he finally fled the country to live a better life and not be drafted into the army.

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Osama and his family fled to Lebanon and after a year they were able to move to Ireland thanks to a resettlement program run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

He said, “We were the first Syrian group to come to Ireland. I had one goal in mind – to go to college and get a job in a big company.

“When I arrived I had very little English. I knew a few words, but I never pronounced them.”

He said his English was so bad that he was afraid to speak to someone in his first six months in Ireland.

However, his confidence began to grow after enrolling in a computer programming course at Dublin Business School in 2015.

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During his studies, he applied to study at the Institute of Technology Carlow and was thrilled when he was offered a place in the software engineering course.

Osama said he cried with joy when he found out he had been accepted into the four-year course in 2016.

He graduated in November and secured his dream job on Ericsson’s software campus in Athlone, County Westmeath, Ireland.

The coronavirus pandemic meant the Institute of Technology Carlow ditched its normal graduation ceremony and held a virtual one instead, though Osama was interested in marking the moment in person with his friend.

They went to the college campus and his friend took a picture of him in his graduation gown.

He then shared the photo on LinkedIn to inspire his friends back home in Syria.

In the post he said: “But life can be very difficult at times #Never give up.

“Thank you to everyone who took this trip. #Immigration#thanks_Ireland. ”

Osama told Spiegel: “17 million people have seen the post and it now has more than 500,000 likes. I shared my celebration with the world, I am so happy.”

The programmer now plans to stay in Ireland and hopes to repay the country for welcoming him with open arms.

He said: “It is my duty to stay in Ireland and give something back. I want to have a family here and live a peaceful life.”


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