My name is Zahraa Jabbar. I am 21 years old and originally from Baghdad, Iraq. In 2004, my family fled Iraq because of the war. We lived in Yemen for over ten years, which included the start of the Yemeni Civil War in 2014—some of the darkest days of my life. After our house was destroyed by bombings, we moved back to our home in Iraq. The situation there became a living nightmare, so we made the decision to travel to Europe. This was the start of another life-altering chapter in my life. Through these hardships, I have come out as a stronger woman. I am a passionate artist and actress, and I strive to depict human and women’s rights in my work.
Turning obstacles into opportunities
Zahraa’s journey to Europe and to IE University is unconventional to say the least. Her family’s decision to travel to Turkey and then take a boat to Europe was the beginning of it all. Originally planning to go to Sweden, the closed borders changed their route and, ultimately, Zahraa’s life path.
Stranded in Greece, Zahraa and her family were forced to stay in the camps near the Republic of North Macedonia’s border. Her experience in the camps was incredibly difficult, although she is thankful that, unlike others, she had access to food and a shower. During her three months in the camps, Zahraa aimed to remain positive by taking time to volunteer with refugee translation organizations. She feels that she is defined by these obstacles that made her stronger and wiser.
A legal relocation program for refugees offered by the Greek government made it possible for Zahraa and her family to move to Palma de Mallorca, Spain. While there, she enrolled in a private school to finish her high school education. This was a vital step for her, and underpins her firm belief that education is the key to opportunity.
Opportunity came to visit Palma College in the form of IE University. This is when Zahraa discovered her dream university and the chance to explore what would become her favorite city in Spain: Madrid.
Zahraa chose IE University for a range of reasons. Firstly, throughout her entire life she has been treated differently—frankly less favorably—due to her background. At IE University, the immense diversity among the student body allowed Zahraa to feel like she was part of something bigger, and that she wouldn’t be stared at for looking different. Additionally, IE University is one of the best universities in the world and the opportunity gave Zahraa even more to look forward to in her future.
With the support of the Financial Aid department, Zahraa began her academic journey at IE University with all of her questions answered and the comfort of feeling fully supported. Zahraa is currently in her first year in the Bachelor in International Relations. She chose this degree because of the countless doors it opens in various sectors throughout the world. With her extensive experience of living abroad, she is fascinated by the history and culture of different countries and loves understanding global affairs and why they matter.
While Zahraa struggles to find the words to describe her experience at IE University, she points to the invaluable support offered from professors and other faculty and constantly reminds herself how fortunate she is. What’s more, IE University’s Liquid Learningmethodology allows Zahraa to choose whether to study online or attend face-to-face classes. This offers her the flexibility to plan her time around her other activities, such as painting and attending art and design classes.
Reflecting on the importance of education, Zahraa encourages other students to follow their dreams, no matter what they are and what people say. She decides her own value, and encourages others to remember this no matter the obstacles or setbacks they face.
Exploring her passion of acting, Zahraa recently acted out a scene from The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico García Lorca with her colleague Camille and professor Currusca Collado. This type of activity exemplifies Zahra’s belief that IE University continues to open doors for their students’ future. Her life story has taught her to appreciate every single thing, and we at IE University look forward to watching her continue to grow personally and professionally.