Edinburgh Global

From Syria to Scotland: Ahmad’s journey as a New Scot

After fleeing Syria, Ahmad shares his story of gaining educational support and skills from the University’s initiatives, STTEPS (Syrian Teenager Tutoring and Education Programme) and Syrian Futures.

Profile banner of Ahmad in a classroom
Ahmad Alkalesh

Ahmad Alkalesh was just 15 years old when he arrived in Scotland as a Syrian refugee. As a New Scot, his roots in Edinburgh began to grow through community programmes at the University designed to develop language skills and support him in his new home. He took part in Syrian Futures and STTEPS (Syrian Teenager Tutoring and Education Programme) initiatives, and he found opportunity on a football programme at a local charity. 

First impressions of Scotland 

Ahmad vividly recalls arriving in Scotland and how the lush greenery contrasted with where he’d departed. Adjusting to life in Edinburgh, he found the city's calm streets vastly different to the bustling atmosphere he was accustomed to.  

“I arrived in Scotland in 2018, on my 15th birthday to be exact. My first impression was unique as I had seen loads of trees and nature from the plane before I landed, the total opposite to where I had come from in Egypt.” 

“It was a totally different lifestyle from the one I was used to, from the busy and noisy streets of Egypt to the relaxed and quiet streets of Edinburgh, it was very different. 

I went to the old town a couple of days after my arrival and I was so pleased to see those beautiful places. The old city reminded me of the old of Damascus where I spent my childhood - a few of these streets gave me the same vibe especially when I used to walk there while it was raining.” 

Ahmad’s passion for football 

It wasn’t a straightforward route to find a football club where Ahmad felt welcome. On the journey to follow his football passion, he initially faced racism and discrimination, before he eventually found a welcoming and supportive team through a local charity.  

“Being a footballer was a huge passion and dream for me, I always wanted to be a football player when I was younger.” 

“Football should have nothing to do with racism and discrimination, it is a sport that loads and loads of kids love, we should not stop them because of their nationality or background.” 

“It took time for me to find the right team that would take in - a beginner in football and a refugee. I felt accepted into the team I joined through the charity. The main benefit I gained from that was learning English, my knowledge increased fairly well.” 

“Football brings people together, you play with people you do not know but there is one thing in common between all of them, which is the love of this game. It brings happiness to me - I love it.” 

Community programmes in Edinburgh 

Aside from football, Ahmad recalls being involved in Syrian Futures and STTEPS and how it helped him settle in the city and prepare for his future. 

“Both programs were so beneficial when it came to learning English and discovering new places in Edinburgh or even outside of the city.” 

“On the two programs, my knowledge increased as I received help from University of Edinburgh students who gave me their valuable time. I also had the opportunity to meet students who gave me advice on the subject I would like to study in the future and how I can get better at it.” 

Future aspirations 

Ahmad is now committed to developing his skills and knowledge and building a fulfilling career, not as a footballer, but as an IT professional. 

"Information Technology was a huge interest for me since I was in school. I studied IT in college then decided to take a further step by doing an apprenticeship. What motivated me was that I wanted to achieve something big if I could not have a career in football, my desire to be successful in this industry was with me all the time."

"I hope to continue on the same path of learning and being on top of my performance, hopefully achieving more certificates so I can add to my knowledge and achieve a good place in my career in the upcoming years."

"I feel very confident when it comes to progressing as I know  I can always do better and I can always learn more and more. There is no limit to knowledge, I learn something new every day so that’s something fantastic on a long-term basis."

"I am very proud of myself in general, especially now being successful in my work - just last month I was the best engineer in the company, all of that and I’m only 21 years old. I’m proud of representing the best impression of Syrians as well."

Discover more

Syrian Futures

Syrian Teenage Tutoring and Education Programme