MANCHESTER, ENGLAND: Noor Al Jarad had only ever heard Japanese spoken on television or in movies. Back home in war-torn Damascus, there was even less opportunity to study it.
But five years later, Al Jarad is fluent in the language and has top marks in Ireland in the subject. What’s more, the 17-year-old Syria refugee has stormed her way through her Irish state examination and it one of Ireland’s top students in the annual Leaving Certificate.
Now, Al Jarad has secured her place in prestigious Trinity College Dublin to study dentistry.
It’s a remarkable story for the student who fled Damascus nearly six years ago. And since then, her family joined the Syrian diaspora before being granted asylum status in Ireland in 2015.
The family of four were then moved several times into temporary settlement homes, posing a challenge for Al Jarad and her studies. What’s more, she had to learn English before she could learn in earnest. But Irish families and communities across the nation welcomed the Al Jarads and another 4,000 refugees from Syria, laying the groundwork for Al Jarad’s stunning academic success.
When the Leaving Certificate results were released last week, Al Jarad scored top marks in Japanese, Arabic, Chemistry, Biology and Physics, with solid marks in English. And were it not for a provision that weighs in favour of those who take their exams in Gaelic, one of Ireland’s two official languages, Al Jarad would have been a top student in the nation.
So why dentistry?
“I saw dentistry as a form of art,” she explained. “It fascinated me how a person’s smile can boost their confidence. I have friends with braces who talk about how excited they are to smile when they come off.”
To study dentistry this year, she needed 590 points. When the results were released, Al Jarad secured her place with 602 points.
“I thought there was no way I could get 590,” she said. “I knew the points were crazy for dentistry.”
Right now, the family is in the process of securing full Irish citizenry. “I do get homesick,” she said. “But Ireland definitely feels like home now. I don’t say I’m 100 per cent Syrian anymore — I’m half Irish now.”