Air Strike Hits Close to Home for Syrian Temple Student

The recent air strikes and deadly chemical attacks in Syria have done more than shake the country, it’s directly impacted the life of Temple student Maryam Hallaj. Born in California and raised in Arizona, Hallaj and her family decided to relocate to Syria in 2006 in order to learn about their family’s culture.

The eleven-year-old at the time had no idea how much the move would impact her life, “moving isn’t easy to begin with. But cultural change is really hard. Especially when you don’t know a language and you’re just thrown into it,” she said. It took Hallaj roughly three years to learn the language and adapt to the culture in her new hometown of Aleppo. Just when she thought her life had settled, the war zone in Syria started developing.
“I fell in love with the city a little bit. It took me a long time, but I grew up there. And I did leave a piece of my heart there and I have family there, I care about people there. And to know that that’s all gone because of power fights is difficult for me,” Hallaj said.

Her family made the tough decision to move back to Pennsylvania in 2012, just as schools began to shut down and gun fire broke outside of their home. Hallaj describes living with the guilt of knowing that she is safe while others who couldn’t escape Syria are simply trying to survive. She also said that it’s sometimes hard for her to put herself in the shoes of others because what they are experiencing is so horrible.

“I can’t even grasp what it’s like for these people to live in camps or to be afraid to step outside their home. For an adult to manage that it’s hard enough, but for someone who is still very young to grow up that fast which such horrible traumatic experiences, it’s awful! There’s no way to really describe it. And to take away an education that is really valuable, it sets the country back a lot,” Hallaj said.

Once the family moved back to the United States, they went through some hardships getting back on their feet. The moved around from their father’s company garage and even slept on friend’s couches before becoming established again.

Hallaj is one of five Philadelphians to be granted the GSK Opportunity Scholarship, which allows her to attend Temple University. She plans to graduate in May 2017 and become an architectural designer in Philadelphia

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