Salem S. Gharbia arrived in Dublin a little over two weeks ago. He travelled to Trinity College from Gaza to take up his place as a PhD student in Environmental Engineering. Salem wrote us a guest blog to tell us about his journey to Trinity, his first impressions of Dublin, and the place he’s left behind.
Before slipping into your deep dreams, stop! Wake up! It is unbelievable to be a Palestinian citizen from Gaza starting in one of the leading and most prestigious Universities in the world. Because I am from Gaza, my dreams should have been broken by the siege. Standing in Gaza, it takes a big imagination to dream of studying in Trinity College. This September my dream has come true: I start an Environmental Engineering PhD in Trinity College Dublin.
To be from Gaza, what does that mean? Let me shout loudly from my deep wounds and tell you. It means that deep down you feel that you may become a faceless statistic for a displaced people. It means that you could be an injured child and teach others what life is all about. It means that you fool others with your strength and steadfastness while a hidden feeling warns that your end is yet to come. It means that you are afraid to sleep because you could wake up to the worst. It means that you might be a father but you are not able to protect your weak, frightened child. To be from Gaza it means you will never forget that Gaza’s children, instead of eating ice cream, were put in an ice cream freezer in lieu of a morgue. Gaza is a place where right now there is non-stop grieving, lamenting, keening, wailing, weeping and struggling every moment!
However, under this entire painful situation, there was a dream for a young engineer who aspired to help solve the water crisis in his oppressed Gaza; this dream was Trinity College Dublin.
I am going to tell you why Trinity College is a great dream. The first reason is that every brick and stone and grain of sand in Trinity expresses a history of academic freedom. Trinity is recognised for academic excellence and a transformative student experience. Trinity College is a home to some of the most talented minds and most influential researchers in the world. For these reasons, Trinity College Dublin is a dream for an ambitious researcher from Gaza, a dream that I worked hard to make real.
My Trinity College dream was a thread of hope in my life, but in order to make it a reality I would have to struggle until my feet finally crossed the threshold into Front Square. My journey to Trinity College from Gaza was long and arduous. I arrived at the Rafah crossing into Egypt on 6 August. After four days waiting in a congested and humiliating queue and during a brief ceasefire I was allowed through on 10 August, by showing my Trinity College acceptance letter. It took a further two days of a hard, dangerous and exhausting travel to reach Cairo airport.
Eventually, I arrived to Dublin airport where the immigration officer asked me about my reason to be in Ireland. With a proud heart, I showed him my offer letter from Trinity College, as if it was a VIP card. With ease and grace, at last my Trinity College dream opens wide for me. I start my adventure in Trinity College in a few weeks.
Honestly, to be from Gaza and to share your space in Trinity College, it feels like I am a phoenix rising from the ashes.