Olivia Issa, SVR Co-Chair, Interview with
Araz Khajarian, Recipient of Salve Regina’s Scholarship for Syrian and International Students Impacted by International Crises
April 1, 2021
Salve Regina Scholarship for Refugees
Araz Khajarian was a recipient of the Salve Regina Scholarship for Syrian and International Students Impacted by International Crises. Khajarian, Armenian from Syria, started her higher education studies at a university in Syria, but even after her studies began, continued to apply for schools abroad in hopes of leaving the country through education. In 2015, she stumbled upon a post from Jusoor [link to Hang Le’s article] on Facebook promoting Education USA [link to Rashae WIlliams’ article], a U.S. Department of Education initiative. Through Education USA, Khajarian was connected with an advisor who provided support through the application process to U.S.-based universities.
Khajarian was also put in touch with previous student recipients of Salve Regina’s scholarship. According to Khajarian, these were the most pivotal connections she made in the application process; Salve Regina students helped her so much to prepare for the program. Her relationship with student recipients was informal and unregulated by the university; they chatted online and students gave her advice about navigating the application portal, preparing for social expectations of the move to the U.S., and even reading through some of her essays for the application. Additionally, Khajarian shared that her parents were very nervous about the thought of her living alone in a new country. Hearing from students who themselves had left their families to study in the U.S. went a long way in comforting Khajarian’s parents.
Khajarian was denied an F1 visa her first round of applying, but was granted on her second try. She noted that opening a bank account – a requirement for the application – was immensely challenging for her. One thing that did help in her application, though, was that, upon being admitted to the scholarship program, Khajarian was offered a paid position in the study abroad office of Salve Regina. This proof that she would be making money and therefore could be financially independent was crucial to her visa application. Upon arriving on campus, Khajarian attended an orientation for international students, and shared that she appreciated being able to get to know other international students. She also shared that having an advocate on campus like Erin FitzGerald was vital; someone who knows the specific struggles that recipient students face and who can advocate for them to the school’s administration and staff is crucial to making students feel seen on campus.
Meet SVR Co-Chair, Olivia Issa
Olivia Issa, SVR Steering Committee Co-Chair; Co- Executive Director of No Lost Generation, The George Washington University.
Olivia Issa (she/her) is a third year undergraduate student at The George Washington University studying political science and Arabic. Olivia is the Co-Executive Director of No Lost Generation GWU (NLG GWU), a student-led refugee-advocacy group on GWU's campus, and the Co-Chair of the Student Voices for Refugees Steering Committee. For the past six years, Olivia has been engaged with refugee-advocacy and resettlement work in Chicago and Washington D.C., volunteering and interning with resettlement agencies and refugee aid providers throughout both cities.