Life changed by the unexpected

Study Abroad

I am an international student and studying at Drexel is already a study abroad experience for me. But I decided to take it a step further; I did a term abroad at Denmark Technical University (DTU), Copenhagen, Denmark. I applied for this program expecting a standard study abroad experience. I knew exactly what to expect and handle any possible obstacles. One of the major intentions of going to Europe, like anyone else, was to travel. After all the intense paperwork and pre-departure sessions, I landed in Copenhagen. I was super excited to travel around and experience European culture. I went to all the nearby countries—Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, and more. As most of you are aware of bag packing travel culture in Europe, I was excited to try it out too. I decided to go for unplanned solo backpacking for 13 days (it was autumn break and we had 10 days holiday). I got a euro rail pass for the duration to live my dream. I wanted it to be spontaneous. In my head it was all I have seen in movies: meeting random people, partying, and saying goodbye in two days.


I started with Germany, went to Prague, Budapest and was leaving for Vienna. ISIS was at its peak at that time and tons of refugees were escaping to Europe. The train I took from Budapest to Vienna was life changing for me. It was filled with refugees. I could look into their trembling hearts through their forbidding eyes. That’s when harsh reality struck me. I was in a train full of people who were homeless and hungry for days. All they wanted was to live. The children had left their schools, the parents didn’t have bread to feed their kids, and they were still smiling. They were happy to be alive.

That moment I decided to take a step forward and promote humanity

A reel of anecdotes started playing in front of my eyes. All those times when I demanded more even though I had enough of it, when I supposed that my parents weren’t doing enough for me and when I was dissatisfied for not having everything. None of the things such as success, social reputation and competition mattered to these people on the train. The sole purpose of their lives at that moment was to survive. The truth made my brain freeze and gave me chills. My thought process was disrupted by the ticket inspector demanding to check my ID. He asked if I had a Syrian passport, and if I did, I had to get off the train immediately. In next 10 minutes, the train was empty. A tear rolled down my eyes as I watched humanity crash. That moment I decided to take a step forward and promote humanity.


This wasn’t something I expected to witness while studying abroad but was the most life-changing experience I ever had. I have decided to do my 3rd co-op volunteering in one of the countries in Africa. I am aware of how blessed I am, and want to give back to humankind as much as I can. I am thankful to Drexel for teaching me the most unexpected but fundamental lesson of life.

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