Jan 29th, 2020, 12:01 PM

Home is Where the Heart Is

By Maddi Carpenter-Crawford
Image Credit: Shutterstock by AdresiaStock
How AUP students are creating community with Syrian refugees

"I feel I'm home with my family here at AUP."

These are the words of Mohammad Jabur, one student here at AUP.

Back in 2014, Mohammad arrived at the American University of Paris after fleeing the war in Syria. Of the journey, Mohammad says "Just imagine, one day to have everything, and one day to have zero, like nothing. I had to go to other countries, crossing the border, walking for hours just to be alive."

It's a striking image, no doubt. But according to Mohammad, the challenges of migration do not end when one lands in a new destination. Upon their arrival to France, asylum seekers are expected to rapidly adjust to French culture, habits, and values. On top of that was the challenge of languages.

"I was shy to speak, afraid, you know? I come to talk to you, I don't know you. You're going to laugh at my accent now."

For Mohammad, this learning curve was made easier by a community of international students who understood the culture shock.

"AUP stood behind me, they support me, they opened my eyes to different cultures. Everyone has different cultures."

It is this type of support that Mohammad aimed to create for fellow Syrians fleeing conflict when he co-founded the club Baytna à Vous back in 2015. Today, the club supports families by providing community and language support to both parents and kids. Mohammad speaks on the importance of this time for the younger children "The kids, they don't know how to have fun because they grew up in this war."  As kids engage in activities to help them make friends, practice their French, and let them just be kids again parents get the chance to discuss everything from the French immigration system to the more relaxed questions like what's for dinner tonight.

Recently, Baytna à Vous has brought in artists and musicians to help the children express themselves and heal. If you walk through the ground floor of the AUP Grenelle building, you will see another project put together by the Baytna à Vous group. Artworks from child immigrants from all over the world are displayed, providing kids an artistic release. The AUP community can get an empathetic glimpse at the experiences of being a child displaced.

Mohammad says of AUP, "I am the lucky one. I am the one who was supported to come here," and his club Baytna à Vous is doing a fantastic job at providing a supportive community to other families arriving in France.

"If you are able to help other people, other kids, why say no? You give them hope."

If you want to be involved with the Baytna à Vous group and help to provide support, the group will be back, accepting volunteers and putting on events when AUP reopens.