Meet Yohana Dawood! This senior Business major comes from Iraq, the unstable political situation made it difficult and even dangerous not only to pursue his passion for football but also to study at a university. LCC and the Middle East Scholarship became a transformative opportunity to study business, to represent the university in the football team, and to build a better future.
How was your life in Iraq? What circumstances did you find yourself in while growing up? What kind of hobbies/passions did you have as a child?
It was pretty hard. I had to spend a lot of time inside for my own safety. The indoor life sometimes stopped me from doing what I wanted. I didn’t have a lot of hobbies as a child, but I did play football with my cousins and friends. Being outside wasn’t always safe, so often we would play inside, and being kids, break windows or something. The weather didn’t allow us to play outside either, as summers in Iraq can reach 50 degrees Celsius (122 F). Playing football or pursuing other passions wasn’t always possible. In general, I don’t regret the challenges, because they made me who I am today. My childhood taught me to be respectful, to appreciate what I have, and to have faith.
What was it like to study in your country during such turbulent times?
I finished high school in 2015. I applied to the University of Mosul, but the city was controlled by ISIS, so obviously no one could go there. Instead, I studied on the campus of a university in Kirkuk, another city altogether, but under the same program of the University of Mosul, where I was majoring in computer engineering. Because of ISIS, my family relocated to a safer city in Erbil. Various control checkpoints made traveling from Erbil to Kirkuk too long, so I eventually moved to Kirkuk and lived in a Christian dormitory. For a while it was safe, but in my sophomore year, ISIS attacked the city. Some ISIS fighters even used the dorms as a safe house during firefights, but fortunately, they didn’t know anyone was in there also. Anti-ISIS forces freed us after 12 hours, and it felt miraculous, especially since no one from the dormitories was hurt, whereas the street itself was destroyed by bombs. After the whole situation, the university shut down, and I could no longer study.
How did you first become aware of LCC?
Soon after I was no longer able to study, LCC representatives were at the University of Duhok, where my brother’s friend was studying. He let me know about the new opportunity with LCC. I saw coming to Lithuania as a wonderful option, because education in Iraq is not the best, and many graduates don’t have a career upon completion. Many people in Iraq hope to leave the country in an attempt to create a better life for themselves.
You are a recipient of the LCC’s Middle East Scholarship. What impact has it had on your studies?
I was one of the first people from Iraq to apply for the LCC’s Middle East Scholarship. It’s a scholarship that is designed to help students from the Middle East who are affected by war to afford tuition, housing, and travel. The scholarship has helped me afford the housing and tuition expenses here at LCC. These four years have been transformational for me and I’m really grateful to LCC for this opportunity. In most cases, students look for universities and suitable scholarships. In my case, it was LCC who was looking for students. They came to rescue us from what we were going through. I see it as a message from God.
You’re a Business major – why did you embark on a journey to study business?
The closest thing to computer engineering I was able to study at LCC was finance and business. This field also seemed good because I think every person needs to have some business experience. I think I can have a better life by owning a business.
Before Coronavirus hit the world, you used to play futsal on our team. What position were you? Do you miss playing? What does the game mean to you?
I was the Striker. However, it being futsal with only 5 players on a team, you have to learn the other positions as well. So, I would sometimes be a Winger or on the defense. It’s been 6 months since the last time we played, and I hope the situation soon improves because taking a break from studies with sports is particularly refreshing. I miss football for sure, as it’s been a part of my life for a very long time. Even when I can’t play, I still watch games and keep up with the sports news.
What is your thesis about? How do you feel about the Covid impact on defenses and graduation format?
I’m doing a CLP or Client-Linked Project. I’m working with a local company that offers online training courses, and my project has to do with the website development and online training for people who want to work in the cruise ship industry. Everything has been going well, and I’ve enjoyed the experience. There are pros and cons to the current defense and graduation format, however. On the one hand, it’s less stressful to defend your thesis online. On the other hand, graduation is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and doing everything in person would be far more memorable.
How will you reflect on your LCC experience going forward? What do you aspire to do in the future?
Once I finish my BA, I’ll start a Master's degree. I’ll probably stay in Lithuania, with the options here being to study at LCC or Vilnius University. LCC offers a nice International Management course. I’d also be happy to stay here because I could remain on the football team. I want to further develop my Lithuanian skills and would like to build a career in this country.