Editor’s note: Mahmud Angrini is a Syrian Medical Doctor. He originally wrote to us to say “thank you” – Mahmud’s story was not only touching but so inspiring that we asked him to share it with the community. Thank you Mahmud, for living Coursera’s mission to create a world where people can learn without limits.
Just before the beginning of the Syrian crises, I got a Master’s degree in Laboratory Medicine from Aleppo University. I started my private laboratory for medical analyses, and I was preparing a doctorate thesis in the faculty of Medicine at Aleppo University. I also won the scholarship of the Syrian Ministry of Higher Education to study a PhD in Molecular Biology in France. I was trying to make progress in a developing country, and I was doing well.
However, by the beginning of the civil war in Syria, I lost everything. About one year ago, I lost my house and my lab, and my scholarship was suspended. Once a successful physician, my family and I turned into one of the millions of Syrian refugees. I didn’t just lose my properties I also lost all my relations – friends and supporting family members. I felt sad, depressed, bored and isolated. But then one day while I was surfing the Internet, I found Coursera’s website.
This is a picture of my devastated neighborhood in Syria
What I can assure you is that Coursera changed my life during those painful months. I began to follow Coursera courses, not just in the field of medicine but also in many other disciplines. I enrolled in a course called “Greek and Roman Mythology,” and although it required more than 20 hours weekly to read lectures and look for the meanings of many new words in the dictionary, I found Professor Peter Struck and the course very inspiring, and that my efforts were worthwhile. Soon later, my language skills improved and I engaged in many other courses. The courses and the interesting knowledge impeded in them helped me forget my pain, depression and suffering, replacing my pessimism with hope and entertainment. Since then, I have received 25 statements of accomplishment and certificates. After reading many lectures, I was confident enough to try taking the TOEFL paper test last May, and I got a total score of 600, with 65 of 67 in the reading section. This is definitely one of the positive outcomes of Coursera courses. Recently, I have the feeling that I’m officially addicted to Coursera, and I have begun to pursue a PhD scholarship that depends on the new skills and the up-to-date knowledge that I have received.
Nowadays, I always tell my friends in refugee life: “It is never too late to start again.” Someday, the war will end, and we will come back to our homes and our former lives to contribute to the reconstruction process in our country. To do so, we need to learn new skills, and this could only be achieved through continuing education. We can take advantage of the high quality courses that Coursera offers at no cost. Coursera has revolutionized the field of higher education; it has proved online lectures and tests that can really substitute for a classroom experience when someone lacks access to education institutions. I expect Coursera will positively change the realm of higher education in the near future. Thanks to Coursera, I’m a student in many prestigious universities at the same time, and I make strong friendships and contact many other students of different cultures and regions. Lastly, I just want to thank Coursera for all its unlimited support and for this memorable experience and enjoyable journey into the ocean of science. From all my heart, I really appreciate what you, Coursera staff, professors and students have done for me. You’ve really make my life easier.