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A Very Special Student




All ESL students have stories to tell. But some have incredible life stories that are so far from the norm, they have to be shared. We at Eurocentres Toronto are honored to tell you about one, not so ordinary student who came to us 7 weeks ago to improve his English skills. This student is really most accomplished and has already made a huge impact at school and in his classes.


Adnan is a veterinary doctor and poet. He worked in the animal pharmaceutical field and has published two collections of prize-winning poetry. His first prize was from Kuwait in 2000. And in 2003, he was awarded his second prize for poetry from the United Arab Emirates.


Adnan is a refugee from Syria, the first of many, we hope to receive at Eurocentres Toronto.  As a poet, language is important for Adnan to convey the subtle meaning of his experiences and those of his fellow Syrians. As a new immigrant to Canada, language is essential for advancing his career. His teachers are giving Adnan a lot of support because he is impatient to share his poetic ideas in English.


In a recent conversation class, the teacher had asked, if you were a refugee, what items would you take if you had to flee your country?  While many students discussed the importance of taking mobile phones, pictures, and essential clothing, Adnan’s answer resonated with profound simplicity. The teacher did not know that Adnan was a refugee and when Adnan said that there were only three things worth taking: one’s documents, a list of contacts and money, the discussion that followed was electric. “Without one’s documents, you are a nobody,” said Adnan. “You must prove who you are, again and again from country to country. Without contacts you are lost. And with money, you can buy anything, even documents.”


Adnan’s story is lucky by comparison to many Syrians. He is not the usual refugee. When I spoke to him today, Adnan told me that the first day of school, his 16-year-old daughter was asked to draw what Canada means to her. She drew a picture of two roses: one growing in snow the other in sand.


We are the lucky one’s to have Adnan and his family share their wisdom and remind us of what Canada means.



In the summer issue, a piece is published in The Writers’ Union of Canada’s magazine Write, in which Adnan explores his journey from Syria, through Lebanon to Turkey and finally to Canada and makes us realize how fortunate we are.  If you are interested in reading more about Adnan’s experience, see the Dispatches section in Writers in Exile.