Working with Refugees in Jordan: An Alumna’s Reflections

Come hear directly from UH alumna and UTMB medical student Sareema Adnan on April 6, 4pm at a Refu-tea event in the Honors Commons.  The blog post below is a taste of what she’ll be talking about at greater length next week. —Richard Armstrong

“What Are You Doing With Your Opportunity?”

It has been five months since the Youth for Jordan trip. A lot has happened in the past months: I moved to another city, left UH and started med school, and almost made a meal on my own (microwavable lasagna counts). And for many of us, a new semester is about to begin and life is moving along.

However, such is not the case for thousands of Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Jordan. There is nothing to look forward to as days have turned to months and months to years, all the while with conditions worsening and no improvements in sight. Families of 8 are confined to live in cloth tents, bearing the burdens of the cold and heat as each season passes, waiting for the change that each of us has a responsibility to help bring.

Part of me was upset that I went on a trip to volunteer with Syrian and Palestinian refugees right before I started at UTMB. The families we met kept urging us to tell their stories to others in the U.S., not for sympathy or handouts, but just so that people can know what is occurring. But right when I returned, I began a grueling four year journey that left me without much time to spread these words.  However, this trip could not have been more perfectly timed.

In between keeping up with lectures, trying to prepare nutritious meals and pretending to exercise, I sometimes got so caught up in surviving my first semester at UTMB that I forgot why I was actually here in the first place. Gradually, I found myself viewing school as a burden and complaining of all the things I had to finish each night: notes, quizzes, physical exam preparations.  But nothing could snap me out of those phases than remembering the frustration I felt in Jordan.

Each day, we would meet widows and children who lovingly welcomed us into their homes, offered us what little they had despite our protests, and would treat us like their own family. For the kids, having a day to play tag and get hi-fives unconditionally put a huge smile on their faces. I had nothing to offer besides my time and energy and the refugees gladly welcomed this. However, I was frustrated with my lack of training and skills, wishing that there was more that I could offer. More to help them with their futures. More to ease their suffering.  IMG_1031

I hope that through medicine, I can do exactly that. Remembering that feeling of wanting to do more pushes me to work harder in my classes and take full advantage of the opportunities that I have before me. For each of us, to be on the path of higher education, whether it is at medical school, a university or high school, is a privilege and should be treated and respected as such. There is a reason that you have been given this opportunity. It’s about time we look at these privileges and see what we are doing with them. As the new semester approaches, I hope that we can each appreciate and harness the heck out of the opportunities we have, all while thinking of how we can use these for the service of others.

—Sareema Adnan


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