A University of Limerick student who came to Ireland as a refugee from Syria eight years ago has completed a remarkable journey by graduating this Thursday.
Saleem Yateem, originally from Damascus, Syria, is being conferred with an honours Bachelor of Science in Bioscience from the Faculty of Science and Engineering at UL.
He is among over 3,500 students being conferred across ten ceremonies at University of Limerick this week – but Saleem’s story is different from most who are graduating this week.
Speaking no English when he entered the country in 2015 at the age of 21, Saleem has been on an impressive education journey that saw him complete his Junior and Leaving Certificate with the Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board before undertaking the Mature Student Access programme at UL.
The Certificate allowed him to apply for a primary degree in UL and he has already secured employment with Regeneron in Limerick as an Associate Quality Control Analyst.
Speaking ahead of his graduation this Thursday Saleem said: “To graduate from university has always been my dream since I was a child. My life felt like it stopped somewhere in Syria before I came to Ireland, but now I have a new future.
“I would like to thank all my lecturers who supported me during my time in UL, the staff in the Science and Maths Learning Centres in the Faculty of Science and Engineering where I would spend a lot of my breaks, and the people of Ireland for being so welcoming.
“Your country is where you are allowed to develop and learn, and I am grateful that Ireland has given me this opportunity.”
Offering congratulations to Saleem on his graduation was Bioscience Course Director, and Saleem’s final year project supervisor, Dr Elizabeth Ryan from the Department of Biological Sciences.
“Getting to know Saleem and hearing his story makes us appreciate the opportunities that come to us relatively easily in Ireland that might not exist elsewhere,” Dr Ryan said.
“People who come through the UL Mature Student Access programme really have a vision of where they want to be and having those alternative paths to education is really important.
“One of the nicest parts of my job is seeing our students graduate, I am delighted to have been just one part of Saleem’s education journey and I hope he will go on to bigger and better things,” Dr Ryan added.
When asked if he had any advice for others who find themselves in a similar situation, the newly minted University of Limerick graduate Saleem said: “Never give up, and just keep on trying because life has its ups and downs. Learn from your mistakes and from others. Education is key for your future.”