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December 17, 2018

Maya Ghazal: Refugee, TEDx Speaker and Future Pilot

Maya Ghazal recently spoke at TEDxPlaceDesNationsWomen in Geneva, where she addressed the theme of women’s empowerment and gender equality alongside 10 other female speakers.

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✅Challenges ✅Stereotypes ✅Persevered . Hear @ghazalmia’s story at #TEDxNations this Thursday 6th December – co-hosted by our @melissarfleming, you can click the link in our bio to register. . Maya Ghazal is a 19-year-old Syrian refugee from Damascus who arrived in the UK in 2015. Despite initially struggling with English and facing rejections by schools, she is now studying Aviation Engineering with Pilot studies at Brunel University London – only 1% of refugees go to university! . Maya is a prominent speaker for UNHCR's refugee family visa reunion rights campaign, an ambassador for @TheChildren'sSociety and an advocate for refugee rights. . Maya believes that the smallest act of kindness can make a huge difference in someone's life. . @bruneluni @TEDx @TED . #TEDx #TEDxPlaceDesNationsWomen #HearMeToo #refugeeswelcome #Engineering #Pilot #EmpoweredWomen

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Her place on stage represented another step on what has been an incredible journey.

Maya arrived in the UK as a 15-year-old. In 2015, she fled her home city of Damascus, ultimately settling in Birmingham where she was reunited with her father as part of a family reunion visa.

After arriving Maya experienced many hurdles, the most difficult being the language barrier. However, she found the college she attended in Birmingham to be extremely diverse, meaning Maya wasn’t alone.

Speaking to Business Insider in 2017, she explained how she practiced English with a Lithuanian girl she befriended. This relationship reflected her wider experience:

“In terms of people living in the UK, I’ve never faced someone who isn’t welcoming towards refugees,” she told BI. “I was lucky enough that everyone who I faced and talked to—everyone was understanding.”

Even so, difficult times were ahead. She did not avoid the racism and stereotypes many refugees face, and while she enjoyed some good times at college, she struggled to secure an offer from a university.

Refusing to be discouraged, Maya ultimately won a place at Brunel to study aviation engineering with pilot studies.

“I am truly determined. To challenge every difficulty. Every stereotype. And to encourage others to do the same and stand up for themselves and what they believe in, regardless and no matter at what. To show that everything is possible as long as you believe in yourself and your abilities,” she said during her TEDx talk.

Maya used her time on stage in Geneva to call for the expansion of scholarships and access to university to “give refugees the ability to study with the same determination that I have”.

The comment reflects Maya’s activist streak. While her personal goal is to become a pilot, she has a wider commitment to inspire others to reach their own. Last year, she was honoured with the Diana Award due to her work with young refugees and migrants in the UK.

We hope Maya’s efforts give refugees like herself greater access to higher education, and we believe her own success can inspire them to fulfil their potential.

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