Syrian student enrolls at Yukon College looking for a new life

Yukon College is welcoming a Syrian refugee who arrived in Whitehorse in August and began classes there this month.

Abed Alaboud was placed at the college by the World University Service of Canada student refugee program. He had been living in Lebanon for the past three years with his family.

"It's really nice, the people are nice here, everything is good," said Alaboud. "It's cold."

He said he expected the cold. And after hours on the internet in Lebanon learning about Canada, it's generally what he thought it would be like.

The only thing that's shocked him, he joked, is Canadian food. It's bland compared to what he's used to.

A committee formed at Yukon College raised more than $20,000 to sponsor him for the next year. He's living in the student residence there.

'Easy choice' 

Alaboud decided more than a year ago to find a new home; he said there was no reason to stay in Lebanon. He upgraded his English skills at a university in Beirut. 

"There's no hope there for me, that's why it was an easy choice to choose to come here," said Alaboud.

He said he was attracted to Canada by its diverse, multicultural population and natural beauty.

Dave Croft/CBC

Daniel O'Shea, a member of the sponsorship committee, said the first priorities were setting Alaboud up with identification cards and a bank account. Committee members have also been taking him sightseeing to learn about Whitehorse and the surrounding area.

Gabriel Ellis, an instructor at Yukon College and chair of the committee, said Alaboud was also treated to a Yukon weekend-at-the-cabin experience.

"He went in a canoe for his first time, went in a wood-fired cedar hot tub for his first time, jumping into a Canadian lake for his first time, making a rack of lamb on the barbecue," said Ellis.

Alaboud is hoping to find a job while he's taking multimedia classes. He's also interested in kickboxing and learning how to play the guitar.

He is the second Syrian student sponsored by staff and students at Yukon College. Tareef Jaamour enrolled there in 2016 and eventually left the territory for southern Canada.