Syria's lost generation

Story highlights

  • Four years of war means four years without schools and education in Syria
  • Hiba was nearly done with university when she was forced to flee her home near Damascus
  • To help Hiba and the many other displaced Syrian students, go to CARE

(CNN)I was finishing my studies when the war began four years ago.

I had only two subjects remaining before I graduated from university with a degree in English literature. Since I was 10 years old, I have loved English and dreamed of becoming a teacher.
    I want to teach the younger ones, especially now, because children are the ones who will rebuild our country. They are Syria's future, and they deserve our significant investment.
    Three years ago, my family was forced to flee our home near Damascus, in east Ghouta. Thankfully, we got out before chemical warfare was used there. We stayed in Syria for the next year, moving from one house to another, from one village to another. With each move, we felt no comfort, no safety.
    When you feel unsafe in a place that is being bombed nearly every day, you eventually must make a choice: Ours was to leave. And with only two packed bags, we did. We went to Jordan. I've thought of returning to Syria. I want to be part of my country's rebuilding, but sadly, I don't expect this to happen any time soon.
    When we arrived in Jordan, I thought I would return soon to Syria -- in only a few weeks. We all thought so. It's been two years. And while I still hope to go home one day, my biggest question is: "When?"
    I want to return so that I can teach. As a child, I was inspired by my third-grade teacher, who believed children are the future and who challenged us at that young age to create a better world. I think it's rare for a teacher to instill this so passionately in her students, but I want to try.
    Although I hope to follow in my teacher's footsteps, my path for now is blocked by the uncertainty of living far from home, by a war that has driven me here, by tuition costs in Jordan that are prohibitively expensive.
    Being away from home presents many challenges. You feel like a stranger in a foreign place. You're not among people who know you, or who want to know you. As a Syrian refugee, it is nearly impossible to get permission to be officially employed, and I've no money to complete my studies.
    Overnight, my dreams changed. In one moment I was at home with family and friends dreaming of studying English, of becoming a schoolteacher. In the next, it all feels lost. It's impossible to work, impossible to study. We hope to meet our needs today, not so much to fulfill our dreams tomorrow.
    In Syria, I was responsible to my parents, now I am responsible for them. I dreamed of being a teacher, but because my parents are old, I must try each week just to protect them, to cover their basic needs of shelter, food and medicine.
    I needed some way to support my family. While most Syrians are not permitted to work, we can volunteer. I found a role with the poverty-fighting organization CARE in the urban refugee center in East Amman, Jordan, where I earn a stipend doing meaningful volunteer work. I have enjoyed it so much. After working there, I have become more social, and no longer feel isolated. It's not like sitting at home, feeling powerless, losing confidence, wondering what I can do to help my family, to help my people. Instead, I feel empowered. I recognize my potential.
    And, because of that, I refuse to give up on my dreams.
    My hope is to resettle for the short term in another country so I can continue my studies. I want to complete my education -- and reclaim my dream of teaching Syrian children. Resettling could help shape my future so that I can help shape theirs.
    One day, I will tell them of the crisis we faced in the Syria that I left. We must be aware of this history, and learn from it. We must empower children to speak up and then be sure that their voices are heard. Change starts with them. And it starts with us.
    Each person has the right to pursue an education, to meet their most basic needs, to express themselves. When those rights are stifled, so, too, is a person's potential, her opportunities, her power to create a better world, and in my case, a better Syria.
    My question to the U.S. people and the international community is this: Imagine your life has been turned upside down after you lose everything in a matter of hours: What do you believe in then? What do you cling to?
    The answer, I think, is: your dreams. We all have them. Mine, for the time being, have been deferred.