In the second in our series of blog posts featuring students and teachers, Mohammed Mahmoud Rahemah (Mo) and his teacher Nicky Andrews talk about their experiences. They met in May 2019, and have had two semesters of classes together. Here’s what they shared with us.
Mo arrived in the UK and established a Syrian brunch pop-up and catering company. His optimism is as abundant as his brunches and it’s impossible not to have your spirits lifted by his passion for sharing food, making friends and his determination to make a positive contribution in his new country.
On life and food
“I left Syria 4 years ago and came to the UK via Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Germany and France.
Now I’m a chef. Food is a great way of bringing people together and at my brunches you get to know who you’re eating with. I haven’t always been able to cook. I was studying Political Science before I had to leave Syria. My mum used to shoo me out of the kitchen with her flip flops! So, it’s funny because now I ring her up to ask her how to make something.
I have a lot of support in the UK. I am positive and smile because I want people to know that we came here to build our lives again, not to do nothing. Because I travelled through so many countries to get here, I’ve learnt a lot about people and met a lot of people.
I also work for a pizza place, so wherever there is food you can find me. In the future I want to visit my family but that will take at least 7 years. I also want to travel the world and do my brunches”.
“I had a Syrian friend, Omar, who I met in the Jungle in Calais, he told me ‘you need to be more confident, speak more in English.’ When I arrived the UK I signed up for Language Beyond Borders and met Nicky.
We became friends. I really like her personality and her classes. She understood me and because I liked her so much I called one of my brunch dishes, ‘English Class Eggs’ after her. Because of the classes with Nicky I am more confident and I know when I make a mistake. She’s amazing and I can’t wait for her and her husband to come to my brunch”.
If you fancy a great Syrian brunch you can find Mo and the team here: https://www.moseggs.co.uk/
On why Language Beyond Borders
“I had taken a CELTA course and was working in a language school teaching English to business people. But I was looking for something to give added purpose and to give something back to society. I came across Language Beyond Borders online and it was a great fit.”
“My first class with Mo felt a little awkward because I didn’t know what to expect. By the second class we were more chatty and it quickly felt like calling a friend. Early on, our classes were quite structured but over time they became more informal. The classes are now more conversational with corrections. Mo was always so busy that I gave up giving him homework but I do send notes after each class with new vocabulary and grammar. I was really pleased when he told me that he reads them and then tries to apply the learning in his daily conversations. He’s definitely improved: I saw an early promotional video for Mo’s eggs and his English is much better now than it was in the video.
From Mo I learnt about Syria from a human perspective. We really only know what we see in the news about the war. But from Mo I learnt about the landscapes, the culture and his happy childhood growing up there.
At first, I remember being shocked when he would talk about his experiences of bombings and the conditions he lived in whilst trying to find asylum. How he’d spent nearly a year trying to get out of Calais when they closed down the Jungle. Trying to hide underneath a lorry and hoping it would be ‘his day’ to succeed. I just couldn’t imagine what he’d been through.”
“I also learnt what it means to be resilient, positive and kind. Kindness is very much a part of the Syrian mindset. If a stranger on the street needs help you give it to them without a second thought.
Mo is always thinking towards the future, he has such a positive attitude and belief in himself. People in the Western world spend a lot of time and money searching for the secrets to ‘positive mindsets’ ‘living in the moment’ and personal resilience, but for Mo these things just come naturally. I think that maybe he taught me more than I taught him.”