Ammar Mahmoud: “I like everything about Armenia, but I wish I received higher salary”.

Our interviewee is an English teacher from Syria, Ammar Mahmoud, who’s just moved to Armenia. Now he lives in Yerevan and studies at American University of Armenia. He also works in English and Exam Center (ETC).

  • Where did you use to live and what did you use to do before moving to Armenia?
  • Well, I moved here 2 months ago. Before I came here, I was in Lattakia, a coastal city in Syria. I used to work and study at the same time. I was doing my masters. I was at the final stages, but I got a scholarship here, to the American University. So I talked to my professors and they were ok with it. I was working at 3 places, 2 universities and a language center. I quit everything and came here.
  • And what about the quality of higher education in Armenia?
  • The AUA is similar to the one we have in Syria. It’s good, I guess. I like that you always have to express your opinions, you can always be creative. For masters degree you can either have exams or you can write your thesis here. In Syria you have to have exams, and then write a thesis. And here they like group work a lot. I think it’s a good thing maybe, but in Syria we didn’t have it. But I can’t say if it’s perfect education or not, because I only have experiences here and there. Maybe I need to see somewhere else also to be able to judge more. But yeah, I guess everything is good, as far as I know.
  • How has your life changed after moving here?
  • I used to work more there. Here I have only one job because I’m here on a scholarship. I want to be in a very good academic stand. I can’t achieve poorly, because if so, I would be sent back. I feel more comfortable here, because I don’t have a lot of things to worry about. When you travel, you always feel more comfortable. My whole life here is only about college and work. Now college is more important for me, it’s the main reason why I’m here. I feel like people like me, because I speak English. They feel happy, they’re ready to help.
  • Do you have any Armenian friends and is it easy to socialize with them?
  • Yes, I have so many friends here. All of them speak English, so I feel very comfy.
  • What was your first impression of Yerevan?
  • When I first came here, I noticed that the streets are very clean. Even now people clean the streets at night. That’s great. There are a lot of green areas here. I also have an impression that they take care of the city center more than of the other districts. A lot of my Armenian friends keep saying that Armenia’s not very financially stable, eg. the salary is very low or they haven’t finished building the Cascade. I got this idea because they keep saying this a lot. I have an impression that kids are very clever because they speak 2–3 languages. It really affects their intelligence.
  • What’s your favourite place in Yerevan if you have one?
  • I like the Republic Square. I like all the streets that are green. And I don’t like the Cascade. I think it has so many sculptures that are not very related to the place.
  • Did you have time to do sightseeing in Armenia? Are there any places you’d like to visit?
  • Only at the beginning.I went to Garni, Geghard. I visited museums here, like the Genocide museum. Only this places, because I didn’t have more time. Maybe I’d like to visit another city, but nothing in particular, I think. And I’d also like to visit the National Gallery and the museum that has the statue of the man sitting and other sculptures. (Matenadaran I guess — ) Yes.
  • Do you like Armenian food? Do you have any favourite cafes in Yerevan?
  • I went to 2 Armenian restaurants. It’s not very different from our food. But we don’t have that soup made of sour and is like yogurt. (Spas — ) Yes. And we don’t have that tasty tomato juice. But usually I eat at the cafeteria at AUA and they don’t have traditional meals. But I think I like it in general. I like Irish Pub because it’s the the first place I went to in Armenia. But I don’t have a favourite one. I care more who I am with, but not about places in particular, no.
  • Do you miss Syria?
  • Not at all to be honest. I love Syria and everything, but here my life is the university. Maybe this isn’t the feeling that everybody feels, but I think when you’re somewhere for a purpose, you don’t have time to miss your country. I’m always studying and working, so I don’t have any free time for thinking about it.
  • Have you been in Syria during the war?
  • In the news they show that the whole country is on fire, but it’s not like that. In my city it has always been safe. We have certain places where there are conflicts, but in my city it’s very secure.
  • Are all of your relatives in Syria?
  • No. I have relatives in France, Australia, the US and Lebanon.
  • How’d you describe your job? Do you like it?
  • I like it because I’ve been doing this for so long, so it’s not new for me. It’s very comfortable, people are really nice, students are nice. The payment isn’t so high. Even in Syria they pay more though the country has political problems. I like everything, but I wish I got more money.
  • If you were not a teacher, what profession would you choose?
  • I’ve never thought about this, to be honest. I started teaching when I was in my third year at university, five years ago. Maybe I’d be a curriculum designer or something else related to education.
  • Do you already have an idea about what will you do after graduating?
  • Yes. After I finish the masters in 2019, I would stay here for some time. Then I would look for another scholarship to do a PHD in another country. It will be easy for me, because I found the current one when I only had my degree from a Syrian university. As it’s an American university, I would get a lot of chances.
  • And the last one. What would you do to reduce the number of conflicts all over the world?
  • I think the main thing is training teachers. If teachers were trained to teach the children in the correct way, and the parents also, all conflicts would be over. It’s because everything they learn during their early ages lasts when they are older. So I think changing the education and parental treatment are the major factors that would affect the conflicts.
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