Mohanad Harba: "Studying at the UPC is an excellent opportunity for my career."

Mohanad Harba: "Studying at the UPC is an excellent opportunity for my career."

Image of Mohanad Harba

Commitment to refugees

Within the framework of the host programme for refugee students in Catalan universities, this year the UPC is hosting two other university students from Lebanon, who will study the degree in Civil Engineering at the Barcelona School of Civil Engineering (ETSECCPB) and the master’s degree in Automatic Control and Robotics at the Barcelona School of Industrial Engineering (ETSEIB).

This is a further step in the UPC’s response to the refugee crisis, because the UPC has had its own refugee host programme since the beginning of the 2015-2016 academic year. This programme was the result of the Decision on the UPC’s position in response to the refugee crisis, approved by the Governing Council in October 2015. Through this initiative, coordinated by the UPC’s Centre for Development Cooperation, refugees have access to enrolment grants for bachelor’s and master’s degrees. They can also apply for the UPC’s learning grants and use the UPC’s services and programmes, including computers of the Reutilitza programme, the Salsa’m mentoring programme, the Visual Health programme of the University Vision Centre, and language support resources.

Mohanad Harba is one of the 18 young refugees from Lebanon who have resumed their studies in Catalan universities in the 2018-2019 academic year thanks to the host programme for refugee students of the Generalitat of Catalonia, with the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Feb 04, 2019

Twenty-nine-year-old Mohanad is a native of Salamiyah, a town of little more than 70,000 inhabitants located in central Syria, outside the conflict zone. He had a quiet life with his parents and younger siblings until he finished secondary school, when he had to take one of the most dangerous decisions of his life: to move 157 kilometres north to continue his studies at the University of Aleppo, the second most important one in Syria. Although Salamiyah is less than three hours from Aleppo by road, the difficulty of crossing the conflict zones made the trip a 20-month pilgrimage.

Despite the difficulty, Mohanad did not give up on his goal, and in 2016 he graduated in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Aleppo. He then had to do compulsory military service, which meant fighting in the war. In view of this, he decided to leave Syria: "No Syrian youth wants to go to the army, and to avoid it they have to leave. I didn’t want to fight, because war is very dangerous and I only have one life! All my friends are outside Syria, in Turkey or Europe,” he said.

The best way to leave Syria was through Lebanon, where he worked as a mechanical engineer for a year and a half, although in very precarious conditions. "The situation of the Syrians in Lebanon is not good. You don’t have residence, health coverage, or any type of service," he explained. "It was very hard for me to find work but, thanks to my experience in drawing and computing, I got a good position as a mechanical engineer, although with a very low salary."

From Lebanon to Barcelona
It was at that moment when, through the Internet, he learned of a host programme in Catalonia for young refugees in Lebanon that would allow him to resume his studies. After several tests and interviews, Mohanah was finally one of the young people selected to study at Catalan universities.

He arrived in Barcelona on 13 September and was immediately fascinated: "It’s an incredible city. The weather is very similar to that of other Mediterranean cities like Beirut, but here there are more green areas, which allows you to enjoy much more of the good weather. The people are also fantastic." Now he is staying with a family in Montcada i Reixac, but hopes to live in the centre of Barcelona at the end of the year.

Master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering at the EEBE
The host programme includes a period of language immersion in Catalan and Spanish at the University of Barcelona (UB), after which Mohanah will study the Master’s Degree in Materials Science and Engineering at the Barcelona East School of Engineering (EEBE) for two years. He thinks this is a very good experience for his professional future: "I am very happy about this great opportunity. Studying at the UPC is an excellent opportunity for my career."

Mohanah’s dream for the future is to work as a university researcher in his field of specialisation, mechanical engineering, or perhaps to develop technology for a company in the mechanical industry. For now, it is clear that he will make every effort to get the most out of this experience. The UPC welcomes him and wishes him great success!

Host programme

The refugee students joined the Catalan universities following the framework agreement signed in Barcelona on 7 June 2018 between the Department of Labour, Social Affairs and Families of the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Catalan public and private universities. This agreement establishes the framework for collaboration between these institutions and the Secretary’s Office for Migration, Equality and Citizenship (SMIC) of the Catalan Ministry of Business and Knowledge. The programme is also supported by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Lebanon and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The SMIC assumes the cost of the student’s trip and stay and was also responsible for selecting the host families. The universities cover the students’ enrolment and fees and provide students with the educational material and books that they need. The universities recruit mentors to accompany the students and give them guidance about university life and their personal needs. Assistència Sanitària Col·legial and the Catalan Health Service provide them with free health coverage.

The 18 students who are studying bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Catalan universities through the programme, most of them Syrian, are between the ages of 18 and 31. They had to abandon their studies due to armed conflicts in their countries of origin.

The welcome ceremony for students was held on 8 October at the Palau Robert in Barcelona, and was chaired by the Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Families, Chakir el Homrani, and the Minister for Business and Knowledge, Àngels Chacón.