Mustafa Al Shawaf: Within My Reach

Peace to all of you, I wonder?
Have I lost my dream or perhaps not yet?
Is there still any hope or has hope died?

My name is Mustafa I am a recent refugee from the country of Syria. I am 26 years old. I had been studying medicine in Egypt for two years before arriving in America.

My story started the day I was born. I was born with my left shoulder dislocated. My childhood was difficult for me because I could not do everything like other children could. Having a disability is what sparked my dream to be a doctor. A doctor knows and understands the greatest gift from God–the human body–which has such special details that even a doctor learns with wonder.

Year after year I felt this dream was closer than before; it felt within my reach. When I entered Cairo University Medical School in Egypt I was happy to start that dream but as fate would have it, it wasn’t yet my chance to fulfill my dream.

My country, my heart, and my home of Syria was at war. All that I knew was destroyed. All that I loved–the memories, places I would love to see once more. All gone. War doesn’t care about you or me. War is evil. The last time I went to Syria, my heart hurt with saddens. All I saw was death.
In 2011, I returned to Syria from Egypt to visit my family. I planned on surprising them at their house. Instead, government officials stopped me at the airport in Aleppo. They accused me of being a terrorist and arrested me and hit me so much that I entered a coma for two weeks. I woke up in the military hospital looking up at my parents’ faces. After that the officials told me, “Sorry we were looking for someone with a similar name. You are free to go.”

I cannot tell how was dangerous to leave Syria to return to go back to Egypt; I thank God I am still alive but because of what happened to me I lost my left hearing completely with internal bleeding in my brain.

Since arriving as a refugee in America in 2016, I have always liked to help all people that I meet, specifically Syrian people, because I know they have suffered dearly. I see the suffering and help not because I am Syrian but because I am a human being. I understand the pain of losing everything.
Even though I had to leave medical school in Egypt to accompany my parents and sister’s family to Rhode Island, my dream is still to become a doctor.


Many do not know that Syrian people cannot go to settle in any Arabic country; we are not accepted to stay in these countries, even though our official language is Arabic. God willing one day in the future when I will be an American those countries will respect me and will allow me in with open arms.

For now I am Syrian, a Syrian who wants a chance to live, a Syrian who wants to live without fear, a Syrian who wants an education and chance to start again.

In summer 2017 I registered as a student at Rhode Island College. I can’t describe in words the happiness I felt to declare as a Biology major. I was returning to my dream.