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Zahraa from Broby is studying medicine in Riga

Zahraa Ahmadi was on the verge of giving up her dream of becoming a doctor. She knew there was a chance of studying abroad. After two years she took the chance . Since August 2019 she has been studying in Riga.
Zahraa Almahdi is studying medicine in Riga. Since last March all courses are remote, so she can spend a few weeks in Broby.
Zahraa Almahdi is studying medicine in Riga. Since last March all courses are remote, so she can spend a few weeks in Broby.
Foto: Lasse Ottosson

Even as a little girl Zahraa knew what she wanted to be.

– It was in Iraq when I was four or five and I went shopping one day with my mother. I was always happy then if I could give some ice-cream or sweets to people who were poor. I've always wanted to help, wanted to be a doctor, says Zahraa as she sits at her computer at the table in the big room in the house in Broby.

This is where her mother and her three siblings live. Since last March all her studies have been remote.

Different viruses in the corona family are topical, but others are also part of her studies, here an HIV-virus. It takes six years to qualify as a doctor. Zahraa has passed all heer exams.
Different viruses in the corona family are topical, but others are also part of her studies, here an HIV-virus. It takes six years to qualify as a doctor. Zahraa has passed all heer exams.
Foto: Lasse Ottosson

"I felt I wasn't being honest with myself, it wasn't right"

Her path to studying in Riga has not been straightforward. At upper high school Zahraa realised her grades were not good enough for her dream job.

– I sat the national university aptitude test five times, I studied the same maths course several times, but it was no use, she says.

She was accepted to study pharmacy. But she didn't take up her place.

– I felt I wasn't being honest with myself, it wasn't right.

Zahraa and her younger brother applied at the same time to study medicine in Riga – and were accepted. They shared a flat. Now her brother has given up his studies.

– Now I share the flat with my husband instead. He is studying medicine too, but he'll soon be ready. He comes from Austria, and he'll work there once he has qualified.

The main reason for the family to move from Hultsfred to Broby was that Zahraa and her brother were studying in Riga.

– It's far easier to get to the airport from here.

The family moved from Hultsfred to Broby two years ago. ”One important reason was that it's easier to get to the airport from here”, says Zahraa Ahmadi.
The family moved from Hultsfred to Broby two years ago. ”One important reason was that it's easier to get to the airport from here”, says Zahraa Ahmadi.
Foto: Lasse Ottosson

Easier from Broby?

– In Hultsfred it was very complicated. Here my mother drives me to Hässleholm, then it's just an hour and a half by train to Kastrup.

She used to come home once a month, but now it is less often.

– Last year Latvia closed its borders in March and shut down everything, all you could do was go to the shops. In June they opened the borders again, but the spread of the infection keeps changing all the time. The regulations are updated every week, so you never know when you might get stuck somewhere or other.

– I can move back and start studying in Sweden too. We'll see.

– We get all our material from the university and don't have to buy books or look for sources. I'm very grateful.

But her studies weigh heavy on her.

Facts

Zahraa Almahdi

Age: 22.
Family: Married to Mohammed-Saleh Awad from Austria. Mother and three siblings.
Born: In Iraq, grew up in Hultsfred.
Lives: In Broby for the past two years. Studies in Riga.
Work: Is studying medicine at Stradins university in Riga, Latvia.
Leisure interests: ”Just to have some time together with my husband and watch serials on Netflix, preferably comedies. There's so much evil in the world, I must watch something funny not to have to think about the stress”.
Misses from Sweden: ”Halal food. When I go back to Riga I have a lot of food with me. It would have been nice with a bigger choice of shops for food and clothes. There are some shops in Riga with branded clothes, but most people living here are less well-off than in Sweden. A lot of people need to have more than one job to manage, even doctors”.

That little five-year-old girl, what does she say today? Are her studies worth all the sacrifices?

– My mother and I have both asked that question.If I'd chosen a shorter course I would be qualified by now, says Zahraa with a big smile.

– It's good to be able to cure diseases. I want to be able to examine my mother if she falls ill. Doctors can be stressed, I can see to it that my mother and my family get good medical care.

"When I qualify, I'll enjoy life, work and not have to have all the stress of studying"

Have you any regrets?

– No, only that I wasted two years improving my grades, but then I wouldn't have met my husband.

Where will you settle?

– He speaks German, I speak Swedish. All our courses are in English. Even now I think – I'm never going to study again. But my husband wants to keep on studying now, he wants to specialise in psychiatry. When I qualify, I'll enjoy life, work and not have to have all the stress of studying.

– We've talked about looking for a job in an English-speakng country, England or Canada, but that's so far away. It would have been easier if we had lived here.