Mahmoud Nani (Syria), the first refugee student to graduate as an Engineer from the UMONS Faculty of Engineering
Categories: Meet the researchers
The UMONS Faculty of Engineering (FPMs) is particularly proud to
have Mr. Mahmoud Nani, 31, a Syrian refugee, among its new graduates. He
now holds a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering and Management with
a specialist focus on Information Systems Control.
On Saturday 14th
September 2019, at the graduation ceremony of the UMONS Faculty of
Engineering (FPMs), Mr. Mahmoud Nani was the first refugee student to
officially be proclaimed Engineer. The panel decided to reward his
efforts by bestowing him the ENG’UP® prize!
Following the second session deliberations and the announcement of results on Friday 6th
September 2019, the FPMs is particularly proud to have Mr. Mahmoud
Nani, 31, a Syrian refugee, among its new graduates. He now holds a
Master’s degree in Computer Engineering and Management with a specialist
focus on Information Systems Control.
“As Dean and Vice-Dean respectively, we, Professors
Christine Renotte and Véronique Feldheim, can only rejoice in Mahmoud’s
success. During his time at the FPMs, he demonstrated exemplary
motivation and acquired the scientific and technical skills necessary
for his future engineering profession. He also worked on developing his
personal and professional plans. A wonderful example of our ENG’UP®
“Create and Create” training philosophy. Our Faculty has played its true
role to society well. Well done, Mahmoud!”
Mahmoud Nani was born in Syria on 5th January 1988, the
second of four children. He grew up in Aleppo and started his higher
education studies there in 2005-2006, as he had always dreamed of
becoming a computer engineer. The revolution in his country would change
He left his country, crossed the border and ended up in Turkey, where
he lived for a year, working odd jobs in restaurants and hotels
(14-hour days!) and learning Turkish and English! His family stayed in
Syria and he regularly sent them money. Due to his very busy work
schedule, it was impossible for him to resume his university studies.
By following the news, he heard about the waves of refugees making
their way across Europe, and that several European countries had
policies in place to welcome refugees (e.g. Germany and Belgium, among
others). He then decided to come to Belgium, all the while maintaining
his objective of finishing his university education.
He was then welcomed at the Fedasil centre in Morlanwelz. Then it was
waiting game. Meanwhile, he used his foreign language skills to help
other residents of the centre, serving as their translator. He also
helped those seeking housing. It is by the greatest chance that one of
his friends told him that a UMONS professor, Mr. Safar, came to the
centre to present the University’s Refugee Student Welcome Programme.
Mahmoud immediately made an appointment and got the ball rolling to
register on a Master’s programme.
He began his academic journey at UMONS in 2015-2016 as an auditing
student, mainly taking French classes. The year after, despite the
language barrier, he registered for the Master’s degree. The secret to
his success, you wonder. “Study, study, study,” he says.
Despite taking 3 years to finish his Master’s (he followed a
complementary programme at the beginning), Mahmoud finally found the
environment where he admits: “I could be me”. The second in a family of
four children (the eldest is a mechanical engineer, his younger brother
works in construction, and his younger sister is in her fifth year of
dentistry studies), he has finally reached his goal.
The new graduate is happy to have met teachers who treated him the
same as everyone else and who were able to identify his potential and
encourage him on his journey. He still remembers the first words of the
Dean who welcomed him and who simply told him “Welcome to Belgium”. He
really was lucky to find such a welcoming university.