By Lucy Hobbs
Two Syrian refugees are the first to win scholarships to a top public school, Brighton College.
Elias Badin, 19, and Sulaiman Wihba, 18, arrived in the UK a year ago with their families and are now studying A-Levels at the co-educational school on Eastern Road.
Overwhelmed with the response to his arrival, Sulaiman said: “From the first moment I arrived everyone was nice, everyone was helpful.”
He added: “I enjoy living by the sea. Back in Syria I lived in Damascus, it was in the middle, no sea, no rivers, nothing.”
Moving to a culturally diverse city like Brighton has been the highlight of Sulaiman’s journey.
The pair and their families were granted asylum in the UK for five years.
Both boys hope to study medicine at Cambridge University and return to Syria as doctors.
Sulaiman said: “I wish to obtain a double speciality and after I might go back to Syria if it is safe.”
He added: “I don’t want to risk my life but I wish I could go.”
It took two months to travel with their families from their homes in the suburbs of Syria’s capital Damascus.
They made the journey from Turkey to Greece on overcrowded boats, surrounded by vomiting and fainting passengers, fearful for their lives.
Elias described the boat he took to Greece from Turkey.
He said: “It was small, wooden, built for seven but there was 40.”
Elias added: “It was the closest point to death.”
Reflecting on his time in Brighton, Elias said: “The UK is amazing. It was as I expected. A good country with the nicest people.”
Both boys feel Brighton College has provided them with the support they need.
Their school houses have facilities such as a piano, table tennis and new computers to share with friends.
Elias expressed the kindness of his schoolmates: “Everyone is so welcoming, so helpful.”
He expanded: “Especially my house master. I cannot deny he is the best house master.”
As the Calais jungle camp closes, approximately 1,200 Syrian children will be without a home.
Many are not eligible to enter the UK without a family member already living here.
Elias and Sulaiman describe their experience in the camp as harsh and both physically and mentally demanding.
While discussing his time in Calais, Elias said: “I met people who had been in the camp for more than six months.”
“They are the unluckiest people I have ever seen.”