Syrian war refugee, aspiring nurse earns RCBC President’s Award
Monday, Dec 18, 2023

Rahaf Alsharif’s journey has been one of immense courage and determination. Coming from a city in Syria, where fear was a constant companion, she faced unimaginable hardships. But despite all the odds, she pursued her dreams and achieved one of her most significant accomplishments: becoming one of Rowan College’s 2023 Winter Commencement Presidential Award Winners at Burlington County.
Alsharif will speak at RCBC’s Health Sciences Commencement at 1 pm on Wednesday, December 20, in Votta Hall.

From an early age, she was taught that “the walls have ears,” meaning you can’t trust who might hear what you say and disagree. The Syrian government was highly controlling of its citizens, causing fear among everyone. There were times she would open her front door and find bullet casings or have to hide her family out of terror that they would be harmed or killed. 

Alsharif migrated from Syria to the United States with her husband and their five children. Leaving behind family and friends is never easy, and the fact that they needed more understanding of the United States and the challenges they would face along the way adds to the difficulty.

“It was a dark time, but we escaped the war there. Even after escaping, I would cry and cry,” she said.

As a child, she strongly desired to become a nurse because of her inherent values and beliefs that motivated her to help people in need. However, she needed to learn and understand English before pursuing a nursing degree. Therefore, she enrolled in an English as a Second Language program at RCBC.

Now, Alsharif is in the process of graduating with an associate degree in nursing, where she is enrolled in clinical experiences and hands-on training from the RCBC faculty. 

“I care about people,” she said. “I get so excited to see patients, and it shows that this is where I am supposed to be.”

Moving to a new country can be a daunting and sometimes overwhelming experience. But Rahaf knows firsthand the challenges that come with such a life-changing decision. She encourages those who have also moved from their native country to America to keep pushing toward their dreams. With perseverance, she believes that anyone can achieve their dreams. 

“Don’t give up. It won’t be easy,” she said. “But following your dream will help you learn more about yourself.” 

Her tears of joy and beaming smile testify to this award’s meaning to her. She recalled trembling with excitement before submitting her application. 

In true form, she thanked her teammates and teachers, saying, “I felt many of my classmates would deserve it too, and I thank them for helping me through my nursing journey.”

Alsharif’s determination and resilience have helped her overcome all the obstacles, and her success is a testament to her unwavering spirit. She is a true inspiration to us all.