Refugee Students Travel from Jordan and Kenya to Study at VIU

Photo Caption: VIU students and co-chairs of VIU’s World University Service of Canada (WUSC) local committee Jessyca Idi (l) and Hamdi Aweys (r) welcome Nadifo Abdi to the Nanaimo campus and community.

November 27, 2015 - 10:30am

Nadifo Abdi remembers the long, dark nights she spent studying for national high school exams at home in Kenya’s massive Dadaab refugee camp, where she was born.

While her six siblings slumbered, her mother was there at her side with a cup of tea, something to eat, and words of loving encouragement.

“She would come stay the night with me as I studied, staying awake so that I would not feel like I was alone,” said Abdi, who is one of two new refugee students at Vancouver Island University (VIU) this year on scholarships sponsored by VIU's World University Service of Canada (WUSC) local committee.

Abdi had first heard about the WUSC program from Aden Ahmed, the headmaster at her school. Aden had been in the process of applying to WUSC himself at the time, and has since come to VIU to complete his Bachelor of Business Administration.

Abdi arrived shortly after Hodan Musse, another WUSC-supported student who left behind a difficult life as a refugee in Jordan to begin studies at VIU.

Musse’s family arrived as refugees in Amman, Jordan five years ago. They travelled from Saudi Arabia because her father was ill and needed treatment that could be provided by a United Nations hospital in Amman. Her parents, both Somalian nationals, had lived for 30 years in Saudi Arabia, her birthplace.

Musse’s father died soon after arriving in Jordan, leaving his wife and family of six children with few prospects, as they were unable to work or access education other than English courses provided to refugees.

Both young women, upon hearing of WUSC’s Student Refugee program, put their ambitions and dreams behind the difficult path of studies and a competitive application process that could ensure them a chance to attend university in Canada.

Musse hopes to enter the Faculty of Management and become a business professional – one day helping other refugees through employment and greater opportunities.

Abdi dreams of a career in the medical profession as a gynecologist, a role she hopes may also help refugees both in Canada and internationally. At VIU, she’s upgrading and has made application to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program to get her start in the medical field.

Both young women, who live in VIU Student Residences, say they have received a warm welcome in Nanaimo by WUSC volunteers, classmates, faculty and community members.

Musse remembers the day in late August when she arrived at Nanaimo Airport, surprised to find a group waiting to welcome her.

“I wanted to cry when I came off the plane,” she said. “There were a lot of people waiting and they said, ‘Welcome, you’re home.’ I think maybe this country will be my home.”

WUSC local committee co-chairs and VIU students Jessyca Idi and Hamdi Aweys have been supporting the two young women in their transition to student life at VIU, along with volunteers on the WUSC committee.

Idi and Aweys said they hope the community is inspired by the young women’s story, and will provide more help to cover costs that are difficult to meet for the small university group.

VIU's WUSC local committee, involving students, staff and faculty, makes a commitment that sponsored students' food, shelter and clothing and other costs are covered adequately during their first year in Canada. One year's tuition and additional costs are covered by funding from VIU's International Education department, while an annual student levy helps provide further financial support.

For information about the Student Refugee Program, and other WUSC initiatives visit


More Information

Learn more about VIU's WUSC Local Committee at, on Facebook at  or by email at

--Donate to the VIU International Refugee Scholarship Fund. The goal is to raise $40,000 by the end of the school year. As part of VIU’s “Giving Tuesday” initiatives, the VIU Foundation will match your donation dollar-for-dollar to the VIU International Refugee Scholarship Fund. This is a limited time opportunity. Visit the special online donor page before December 1:, and select the VIU International Refugee Scholarship Fund as the designated fund. You may also donate in person at Advancement and Alumni Relations, or by calling 250.740.6214.



Shari Bishop Bowes, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P:250.740.6443  C: 250.618.1535 E: T: @viunews

Tags: In the Community