English is the first building block towards this Engineer's dream

Friday, February 18, 2022

Basel ShouebBasel Shoueb had begun his first year of his PhD program when the ongoing war conflict in his home country of Syria left him no choice but to leave.

“I left Syria because of the war that is taking place there,” Basel explained. “At some point, I felt there was no hope but I still have my dreams I needed to pursue, which left me with no choice except to leave.”

At 31 years old, the Syrian citizen packed up his life and made Canada his new home, safely arriving in fall 2018. As one could imagine, the change ones makes when moving to a new country brings its fair share of worries.

“Different feelings had ghosted me once I stepped in Canada,” he said. “I felt happy and grateful to have the chance to be here, but at the same time I was worried about my future and the unknowns that I might encounter here. But, deep inside, I knew that I had made the right decision.”

For Basel, he knew continuing his education would be an important step for finding career success in his new home. Before he left Syria, he had been studying Seismic Structural Engineering in a PhD program at Damascus University, the largest and oldest university in Syria. He knew Waterloo Engineering would be a tremendous place for him to continue his education, but improving his English would be his first building block toward reaching his educational goals.

He learned about Renison’s English For Academic Success (EFAS) program with the support of a local organization that supports Arab-speaking newcomers. The program appealed to Basel because he knew it would be one of the most effective ways to meet the English language requirements to study at the University of Waterloo.

“The content of the EFAS program was much more than I was expecting,” Basel shared. “In EFAS, I learned how to read and summarize journal articles, how to present properly in front of an audience, and how to write academic reports.”

Most importantly, Basel appreciated that the classes went beyond just teaching the basics of English communication.


Basel poses in front of a Tim Horton's on campus with his Peer Leader Andrea and classmates.

“Renison is not just a place where you learn English. It is also a place to make you ready for your next step, and build the confidence in your skills through the variety of events they host for that purpose.”

For Basel, Renison was a learning environment truly embraced diversity and nurtured opportunities for students to develop friendships with peers from different cultures.

“Absolutely, the kindness and the way they welcomed me made feel like I am home and safe,” Basel shared. “The staff greeted me with a smile and guided me through the whole program in a patient and friendly manner.”

Basel studied for one academic term in the English For Academic Success program, which allowed him to meet the English language requirements for the University of Waterloo. He was delighted when he received acceptance and a scholarship for the Master of Applied Science program in the Department of Civil and Environment Engineering.

“It was a memorable moment for me once I saw the acceptance letter. I felt like hope had opened his door to me again,” Basel said.

Thanks to the academic nature of the EFAS program, Basel was able to adapt very quickly to the university atmosphere, and was able to smoothly begin his research and take courses at the university. The opportunities in his Masters program also allowed him to take on being a teaching assistant for various courses at Waterloo.

Basel and friends

Basel and his classmates smile for a photo on the front steps of Renison University College. 

Last fall, Basel defended his research on the subject of three-dimensional printed concrete. Looking ahead, he will attend his graduation ceremony to receive his degree this June. He has since also secured employment with local engineering consulting company, Teletek Structures, as an engineer-in-training, as he looks forward to obtaining his Professional Engineer (P. Eng) license.

“I feel very excited to know my effort has paid off,” Basel said. “At the end, if it wasn’t for Renison I wouldn’t have been able to make it further. There are no thanks that words could describe for how grateful I am for Renison.”

By Ryan Connell, Student Experience Manager
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