MES Program: An Opportunity to Take an Action
LCC International University, an internationally recognized liberal arts institution, recently announced that their vision for developing the Middle East Scholars Program was to assist war-affected students from Syria and Iraq with an intensive English program on a safe campus, in order to help them transition to an English-speaking universities worldwide.
Aistė Motekaitienė, LCC Marketing Director
How did the Middle East Scholars program start?
From its inception LCC’s institutional vision has been to develop a generation of leaders for the countries of the former Soviet Union. We have been very successful in expanding our student recruitment in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, so it was natural for us to look to further regions in which our education could make a difference. Thus we turned to the Middle East – a region now deeply troubled by war. Our vision for developing the Middle East Scholars (MES) Program was to assist war-affected students from Syria and Iraq with an intensive English program (and supplemental support systems) on a safe campus, in order to help them transition to an English-speaking university in Canada or the US, or to remain at LCC to finish their studies. From Fall 2014 to Fall 2016 we made numerous trips to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria to test our idea(s) and to build relationships with NGOs, churches, and United Nations agencies in order to ensure that each prospective student would come to us as the result of a referral from a trusted entity. We tested visa pathways, identified students, and visited with authorities. Our initiative met with enthusiastic responses because we were unique in offering university studies for war-affected youth.
There was a lot of humanitarian help for young children and for secondary school students, but nobody was actually taking care of the next generation of university-trained youth who will eventually become the ones to play a crucial role in the rebuilding and development of their home countries.
We brought our first Syrian students to our Klaipeda campus in summer 2016, 9 Iraqi students and 1 Syrian student in January 2017, and 4 Iraqi and 2 Afghan students in August 2017. We currently have 20 full-time students from Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan.
The MES students have become a welcome part of our larger international university community, giving them ample opportunities to make friends and to interact in English. There are many resources available, such as academic support, counseling, and evening English classes.
The fact that we have Middle Eastern students living and studying among us in Klaipeda has been a signal to the global higher education community and to the global church and to the global humanitarian entities that LCC is positioned to act, not just to talk about taking action.
We are committed to bringing as many as 15 students to LCC each year who come from war-affected areas.
Tell us more about the Middle East students who have come. From what areas did they come?
Our Syrian students came from Turkey, where they had temporary protection status after escaping Syria. Obviously these young people did not have the opportunity to attend university; therefore, LCC became an important pathway for them. Other students came from Iraq: Christians who ran from ISIS occupied areas or Yazidis who escaped persecution and ended in camps for Internally Displaced People. Overall, all of them are very grateful for the chance they have here at LCC. They also understand that they have a big role to play because they are the voice of their own people and their own country. They are representatives of their own societies.
What is your personal vision for this program?
My personal vision is that we would truly be able to serve the students who do not otherwise have opportunities for education. The program is still at an early stage; the full vision of the program is much larger. We want to help the students to improve their English in order for them to continue their studies at LCC or in universities in Canada, the US, or Europe, so that they could study the subjects that most interest them. We hope and pray that when it is safe for them to go back to their home countries, they will do so. And we hope and pray that they will be the agents of future positive change in their own countries because their education has provided them the skills and wisdom and potential to do so.
LCC student Faisal from Iraq
Can you please tell us your story? Tell us about your family and your life in Iraq.
I come from a family of twelve. We are all educated. I already have a Bachelor’s degree. My father was a teacher; now he is retired. He is not getting his retirement salary because of the war. I was working as a project assistant in a British NGO. I was always helping my family, but now I am doing something for me – I want to get an M.A. degree.
How did you hear about LCC?
I heard about the TOEFL test, so I went and did great. I had an interview with Aiste (LCC’s Vice-President of Marketing) and got accepted. I was confident that I would pass it because I wanted it very badly; the only thing I was worried about was the visa. It is very hard for Iraqi people to get visas.
Tell us about your education.
I have a B.A. degree in Basic Mathematics. Now I am studying in PRIME (an intensive English curriculum). I would like to get an M.A. degree in Mathematics. If I do not find an M.A. program in Mathematics, I would also love to do my M.A. in English. When I first started my education I wanted to be in an English department, but in Iraq you have to apply for university degrees at specific times and have pre-existing high grades in that specific subject. Therefore, since I was late to apply because of the situation in the region, they put me into the Mathematics program.
When you came here what expectations did you have?
Since I researched Lithuania as a country before coming here, I already had a somewhat clear picture in my mind. I found the pictures of the dormitories during the winter time and I thought “How will I ever adapt to that weather?” – because Iraq is a hot country and the temperature can reach 45 degrees (113 degrees Fahrenheit). I also expected LCC to be international, and it truly is – just as I expected.
How different is your life here from the one you are used to?
It is very different. There are different social rules, both on campus and in the city. When there is war – there are no rules. People in my country are always communicating with each other, even if you do not know the person. Here, in Klaipeda, you hesitate to ask a question if you do not know the person. Back home we are used to inviting people we do not know into our homes. When I first started working for a non-profit organization, I invited the whole staff to my place. We trust people a lot.
LCC student Fadi from Iraq
When did you come to Lithuania? How do you like it here?
I came to Lithuania at the end of August. I like it here; it is like a new life for me. For most of my life I have been cautious. Here it is different; here it is safe. That is the main difference between these two countries.
How did you come here?
I was sitting with my friend back home and he asked me why I did not complete my degree. I said it was because it is dangerous here (In Iraq), especially for Christians to continue their studies. An hour later, I found out that there would be an LCC meeting the next morning. I worked as a translator and taught English for three years as well as studying it before ISIS came into the city. This helped me to get a high score on the TOEFL exam. I could not even have dreamt about continuing to study English.
I was excited to come here. I am still excited. I love this place. I want to stay at LCC for four years. I love business. I love the community – there are a lot of people, and a lot of countries represented here on the LCC campus.
You have been here for more than two months. What has it been like?
The time has passed so quickly. It seems that I came here yesterday. When I look back, every single time I would go to the university (in Iraq) I would say goodbye to my family because it was dangerous. Now, I don’t even think about time; it is passing so quickly. The only thing is that now I cannot concentrate on my studies because my family lives in a city which is under civil war. When ISIS attacked I was there, and I took my sisters out. I basically saved my family. Now I am worried; I think, “Who is going to do it (next time)?” That is the only regret that I had when I came here. I am worried (about my family) all the time.
Source: LCC University