Testimony – June 2008

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L’éducation en temps de guerre
By Aline Abou Atmé

atme To be born during a civil war in a country that had no real peace time during its modern history is not a very easy life experience, nor going to school and concentrate on studying.

During my primary school years, I had to change school four times, as my family was forced to flee from our house and find a new safe place away from war zones. Every time I had to face integration problems and adaptation to a new education system, new surroundings and new faces. It is only in 1990, when the civil war came to an end and peace settled, that I could continue a normal secondary education cycle in the same school.

At the end of the secondary cycle, I had to think about choosing a specialization. I was dreaming about studying hotel management, but as I failed the entrance exam, I started Translation studies at the Lebanese University where I had been accepted, even though it was not exactly part of my study plan. I quickly realized that I really liked it and I would even say that it became a passion. I graduated 4 years later, and received a degree in Translation Teaching. After that, I did an extra year in a specialized school to obtain a DESS. During those years, I was always within the first students in my class. At the end of my fourth year, I was supposed to do an internship and was lucky enough to be able to work for “Annahar”, the most well know Lebanese newspaper. The internship made me really appreciate journalism.

Once my university studies over, I had to look for job while unemployment was continuously increasing in the country, and where the majority of students with a degree were trying to find work opportunities abroad and leave the country. While I was waiting for an opening, I did almost any types of jobs. I worked as an independent translator, where I was responsible for the subtitles in the environmental translation, banking, legal, whatever I could find. I had also the chance to acquire some translating experience with the Observers of the European Commission during the last parliamentary elections in Lebanon, and I have participated in the translation of the version of “Guiness World Recordds 2007” in its first publication in the Arabic language. The translation of the Guiness book was given to Lebanese translators because of their reputation for their good education and the quality of their work.

After this, I finally found the job I had been waiting for, and was employed as a translator in a Lebanese daily paper named “Albalad”. I was in charge of translating articles of the foreign press who where specialized in Middle East and more particularly in Lebanon, especially during the last war. It was actually the war that made me decide to come to Geneva.

All experiences that I have lived, helped me come to where I am today. In spite of all the horrors that have happened in my country, life was generous with me in my personal, professional life and education. I have received a scholarship from the Swiss government and I am in Geneva today. Even though it took me quite some time to decide to leave my country, my family, my friends and my job to go back to studying, I am now studying for a master in Sciences of communication and Medias at the University of Geneva.

Going back to school after 2 years in the active life was not very easy. To be away from my family, my friends and my job was really tough, and I was even thinking of going back after a month. But time teaches you a lot, and I have learned to see things from a different perspective and appreciate this new adventure. My life in Geneva has given me the possibility to meet people from different backgrounds and cultures which helped open my mind. I will of course also have a master degree in communication at the end of my stay and it will of course provide me with new opportunities when I will be back in my country.

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