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‘I never thought that I would ever be able to study again’: A young math whiz excels on Lesbos

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My name is Kourosh. I am 17 years old and I am from Iran. It is almost a year and a month since I have been living in refugee camps in Lesbos (Moria and KaraTepe refugee camps). Right now, the living conditions on the island are really hard.

From one side we are dealing with COVID-19, which is really dangerous especially in places like refugee camps in which it is almost impossible to keep our distance from others. One of my biggest concerns is the operation of schools because with the danger of COVID-19, there is a high possibility of schools closing. Last year, when the schools were closed, I continued my education online, but I would prefer to continue in the actual school and be in touch with my teachers and my classmates.

In the last few months, we have also had some problems with the local community which is really tired of the refugee situation on the island and for a lot of people we are not welcome here. Living as a refugee can be very frustrating and stressful since you are never sure about your life and your future since other people are deciding for you.

Generally, education is very important to me because I have come to the understanding that regardless of where you are living, in today’s world it is really hard to live and have a decent life if you are uneducated.

My favorite subjects are IT, math and physics. I started my high school in Iran and my high school direction was mathematics in hopes of graduating as a computer programmer. Here in Greece I desire to continue and finish what I have started. By being in school in this situation and seeing other kids, I start to feel a little normal again which helps me forget about my life in the camp or what I have been through. Studying also makes me feel useful again since I have something to accomplish every day and it helps me to escape from the boring life in the camp.

The hardest thing about studying in a foreign country would actually be the language. Without knowing the language, it is really hard to get along with the kids and blend in the class. That was my problem last year. But, thankfully, this year I am able to speak better Greek which will probably make it easier for me to communicate with my classmates.

After so many challenges, lots of studying and with the help of many amazing teachers, I was able to get into one of the top general high schools in Lesvos and I officially became one of the first refugees who ever entered this school. If you had asked me a year ago, I would have never thought that I would ever be able to study again. Honestly, it has been a really hard journey since I tried to study here. I have faced many challenges and I am making myself ready for the ones that I will face. Nevertheless, now that I am looking back, it’s actually worth it, and if I went back in time, I would do the same thing.

Kourosh arrived last year with his family on the Greek island of Lesbos. They stayed first at the Moria refugee camp and then moved to the KaraTepe camp. His parents learned about SOS Children’s Villages educational program in KaraTepe and asked to enroll Kourosh. It was obvious from the start that Kourosh was not only talented in math, but an overall great student. The SOS team worked with the Ministry of Education representative for Kourosh to be able to apply for one of the Model Experimental Schools in Greece, one of each is on Lesbos. Kourosh, who has excellent grades, took the placement test in Greek and recently learned he was accepted.