The student’s long journey from Syria almost did not happen
Bushra Dabbagh was in a race against time. A Syrian student accepted to Northeastern’s biotechnology master’s program, she had to secure her visa in the short window before the Trump administration’s travel ban locked her out of the United States altogether.
This was late-2017, during a brief window of time before the final version of the travel ban—which blocks citizens of largely majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States—was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dabbagh has two bachelor’s degrees—one from Aleppo University in Syria and another from Corvinus University in Hungary. In Aleppo, she tutored girls whose schools had been destroyed in the country’s violent civil war. Her dreams led her abroad, though, and she’s known her whole life that she’d have to work twice as hard to earn a spot in an international program.
Dabbagh wants to work at a big pharmaceutical company, where she can develop medicine to treat chronic disease. But even this dream is tenuous.
“I don’t have a stable goal for the future because I don’t know what will happen in the future,” she said. “I can’t really schedule for the long term because I don’t know when another ban or something else will happen. I’ve learned not really to plan for the long term. In the blink of an eye, everything could shift and change my destiny.”
What she is doing, though, the “fixed point” toward which she’s always moving, is sharing her story, in hopes that it will help another student like her down the road.
“For a while I thought, ‘Why couldn’t I follow my dreams just because I’m a citizen of a certain country?’” Dabbagh said. “I know what I’ve been through, and I want to help anybody who’s going through the same thing. It’s so hard. I feel privileged to study at Northeastern, and I feel the responsibility to help others who only want to follow their dreams.”