A graduation 12 years in the making: one Syrian activist’s road to his college degree

“I feel like things are finally falling in place,” Idlbi advised CNN.

Idlbi’s journey to his bachelor’s degree stretches over the course of 12 years and a number of continents, with Syria’s political rebellion as a backdrop. It concluded this week in New York.

“It was just all meant for me to come here and finish at Columbia,” he mentioned.

Idlbi grew up in Damascus, the son of a non-violent political activist. When Idlbi was 15, his father, Yusef, handed away. It was a turning level for Idlbi’s personal political exercise.

“Knowing about his history after he passed away and my own interest kind of shaped the way I started doing things,” he mentioned.

Idlbi graduated from highschool in 2008. After receiving an affiliate’s degree in finance, he started learning towards a four-year degree at a personal Damascus college.

But quickly after Idlbi started his research in 2011, uprisings started once more in Syria.

“I was involved from the very beginning, organizing demonstrations, delivering aid to besieged areas,” he mentioned.

Idlbi says he was detained a number of instances by Syrian authorities for his political actions. After his second detention, as he tried to put together for his June 2011 exams, one other warrant was issued for his arrest. Idlbi determined then it was time to go into hiding, ultimately leaving Syria.

In 2013, he was invited to the U.S. for a fellowship program run by the State Department. Three years later, nonetheless in the U.S. pursuing advocacy work, Idlbi determined it was time for him to proceed his research.

“Not having my bachelor’s — it was kind of always hovering over my head as this thing I really needed to finish,” Idlbi mentioned.

“Mission Impossible”

Idlbi acquired a scholarship particularly for displaced students from around the world from Columbia and was accepted into the college’s School of General Studies, which caters to college students with less-traditional college paths.

He started his full-time research in late 2017, and concurrently labored full time for a U.S. navy contractor.

“It was really kind of like ‘Mission Impossible,'” Idlbi mentioned.

But when he wrote his papers, he felt he might freely specific his opinions.

Idlbi spoke in 2015 about the horrors he faced while being held by the Assad Regime during the unveiling in Washington of "Caesar's Photos: Inside Syria's Secret Prisons."

“For me, in Syria, much of the whole fight — the idea of the whole uprising is not to make immediate change, but to allow people to be themselves,” he mentioned.

Now, Idlbi is learning for the LSAT examination and planning to apply to graduate college later this 12 months both in legislation or public coverage.

But first, he takes a while to have fun in small methods with household and associates, albeit from afar.

“If it’s in a year or two when we have our ceremony, it’s fine,” he mentioned. “I’m just happy that I’m done with this and to continue moving forward.”

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