Convocation ‘22: Bashar Aldyab and Ahmad Al Hariri, BSc Nutrition and Food Science, Dietetics Specialization

Donna McKinnon - 06 June 2022

From despair to passion, finding a home and a career in Canada

When Bashar Aldyab and Ahmad Al Hariri received the news that they had been offered sponsorship by the World University Service of Canada to continue their education, they were ecstatic — and relieved. Born in Damascus and Daraa, respectively, Bashar and Ahmad were Syrian refugees living in Jordan. Both had experienced severe trauma in their war-torn country, and with limited options, a chance to start over in Canada was the realization of an impossible dream.

Chosen by the University of Alberta to receive the University of Alberta President’s Award for Refugees and Displaced Persons (now called the David Turpin and Suromitra Sanatani Award for Refugees and Displaced Persons) — set up in 2015 to provide financial assistance to students fleeing civil war, persecution or other life-threatening situations — Bashar and Ahmad will graduate together with bachelor of science degrees in nutrition and food Science, dietetics specialization, from the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences.

Earlier this year, they became Canadian citizens. 

Congratulations Bashar and Ahmad!

What is one of your favourite memories from your time at the U of A?
Bashar: One of my favourite memories from my time at the U of A is the day I received the approval letter for the dietetics specialization program because studying health and nutrition is my passion.

Ahmad: My favourite memory would be the time I spent with my roommates in Hub Mall. Even though it was a smaller place, we had a lot of fun. We used to cook together, have discussions about different topics and support each other during challenging times

Did you take on any leadership roles while you were a student?
Bashar: I volunteered with the U of A to help newcomer students for one year. I helped them learn more about the U of A programs. I also shared my experience with them about other topics such as financial and social challenges. Furthermore, I volunteered with WUSC, the organization that offered me the scholarship, as an ambassador to help students from war-torn countries find a scholarship to complete their studies.

Did you face any significant obstacles or challenges during your program?
Bashar: It was challenging for me in the beginning to accept the idea of starting from the beginning and even changing my study path as I finished four years of dental school in my country. However, I followed my passion to study dietetics as I was interested in nutrition and sport.

Ahmad: My program (dietetics specialization) is a five-year program (in total), and the last year consists of multiple placements (clinical, population and public health and food service management). That last year was the most challenging year as I had to relocate multiple times. Also, as interns, we did not get paid during the internship, which made things more challenging.

What advice do you have for current and future students?
Bashar: I think that everyone should follow their inner voice and passion to study what they like rather than what could provide them with better income or a nice job title. I enjoyed every minute studying health and nutrition because I like it and because it is my passion.

Ahmad: Enjoy the ride. The moment you finish your last final, the moment you start working on your resume, the moment you apply for your first job, your first day at your new job. It is all worth that pain and hard work. Remember, no hard work goes unrewarded.

How do you plan on celebrating convocation?
Bashar: I do not have a specific plan for that, but I will celebrate with my colleagues and friends and of course my wife as she supported me so much in everything.

Ahmad: It is a special day. I will celebrate this day with the people who have been there for me during this journey. Also, I want to celebrate this day with my wife (Shatha), who supported me throughout my internship and has been there for me during the most challenging times

What's next after graduation?
Bashar: I am thinking of taking some extra courses about sports nutrition and getting a certificate because I would like to work in this field. I also would like to find a job as a clinical nutritionist to gain more experience while taking those sports nutrition courses. 

Ahmad: Work, work, work. I recently moved from Edmonton to Lac la Biche to pursue my career and work as a clinical dietitian at the William J. Cadzow Healthcare Centre.


Related: Seen Unseen (New Trail): Syrian refugees putting their lives back together as U of A students.



Bashar and Ahmad in their HUB apartment shortly after arriving at the U of A. Photo courtesy of John Ulan (New Trail Magazine, 2017).