International Students Overcoming War continues to assist students from conflict areas

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International Students Overcoming War (ISOW) is helping scholars from areas of conflict come to Canada and pursue an education at Wilfrid Laurier University. 

“ISOW is a student-led initiative that looks to help students from conflict areas come over to study at Laurier with a full scholarship,” Justin Zekorn, a third-year business student and director of public affairs at ISOW said. 

The initiative has helped students from countries such as Palestine, Egypt and Syria pursue an education at WLU. 

“Since 2015, ISOW has supported 23 scholars. Fifteen scholars have graduated, and we are currently supporting seven,” Rodrigo Obregon, a student at WLU/University of Sussex and assistant director of public affairs at ISOW said. 

While academic life is an integral part of ISOW, Zekorn and Obregon noted that the organization goes above and beyond to help scholars in other areas of life as well. 

“From the moment they step off the plane for their first time in Canada, we’re there to greet them,” Zekorn said. 

“We help them find an apartment, help them set up a bank account … We show them around Waterloo and how to use the bus system.”

Once scholars are settled in Waterloo, the ISOW team remains in touch with them and is ready to give them assistance with whatever they might need. 

“We’re like a big family. Everyone helps each other out. For example, a couple of weeks ago one of the tables in a scholar’s house broke, so a couple of us went out and got them a new table and set it up,” said Zekorn. 

The process of getting scholars from their native countries to Canada has a lot of moving parts and comes with its challenges. 

“We have partners such as Jusoor Syria, Prospect Burma, Daughters for Life, and Laurier itself.” Another partner organization that ISOW works with is the Iraqi Syrian Student Project. 

ISOW works with these organizations to find potential scholars from conflict areas. Once this has been completed, there is a long interview process from which a scholar is eventually selected. 

Zekorn said that the work ISOW does relies largely on the cooperation of such organizations, as well as “good relationships with local MPs and the federal government.” 

WLU “waives international fees, so [the scholars] pay the domestic tuition rate, and we get financial contributions from the partner organization from which the students are coming. The Laurier student body provides the levy that helps fund other parts of the scholarship as well.” 

Government relationships help ISOW make the documentation process “as seamless as possible.” 

Obregon noted that ISOW embodies “a lot of Laurier’s core values … they’ve shown and demonstrated that they believe in us and the work that we’re doing.” 

He expressed “utmost gratitude for the Laurier community for everything that they’ve been able to do for us over the past seven years.” 

Zekorn thanks the WLU community for its “continued support. We look forward to putting in more work and being able to help more scholars come here.” 


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