In December’s issue, we feature current SIPA student, Sinan Zeino MIA ’19. A first year Master of International Affairs candidate, Sinan is concentrating in Human Rights with a specialization in International Conflict Resolution. He is SIPA’s James Luikart 70th Anniversary Fellow and a Columbia Displaced Persons Scholar. Launched this year by Columbia University, the Columbia Displaced Persons program provides individuals who have been displaced as a result of the Syrian civil war with access to the transformative power of a Columbia education.

Sinan ZeinoWhat were the circumstances that brought you to SIPA?
In 2013, I was only six credits away from completing an undergraduate degree in English literature from Al-Baath University in Homs, Syria, when I was forced to leave Syria because of the ongoing civil war. Fortunately, I secured a scholarship to attend Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, graduating in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in social work. After finishing my undergraduate degree, I decided to continue my studies and gain more practical experience to more effectively develop the skills needed to gain comprehensive insight into refugee emergencies and then develop and communicate the solutions and strategies to support those in crisis.

Why did you choose to attend SIPA?
I believe that the best learning experience comes from combining both the practical and the theoretical. SIPA offers unique opportunities to do just that. Besides offering a wide range of classes, SIPA’s summer internships and workshops will provide me with the opportunity to work alongside professionals engaged in extensive research of the most relevant socio-economic concerns related to the Middle East, and in particular, to the refugee crisis in my home country.

As a Syrian refugee who has fled war and persecution, I know firsthand that there are thousands of Syrian people in a similar position, waiting for actions to end the violation of human rights that are affecting them and their loved ones daily. Studying Human Rights and International Conflict Resolution will allow me to study, research, and gain hands on experience so that I can develop the skills needed to provide sustainable support to refugees and help alleviate the ongoing crisis in areas that are becoming negatively impacted.

What has been your experience at SIPA so far? 
Moving to a new place and settling into a new environment is a difficult adjustment for anyone, but SIPA does a great job of making that transition as easy as possible. The different events on and off campus, the social events where I have met new people and friends, and the wide range of classes have made my experience rich but easy at the same time.

Additionally, there are many faculty and staff members who are significantly changing my life at Columbia. As I came to Columbia under different and difficult circumstances and as I had many questions regarding the application process, Grace Han, the Executive Director of SIPA’s Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, has showed me tremendous support and help. She is a wonderful human being, and I am so lucky to have her support through my journey at Columbia.

Is there anything about SIPA that has surprised you or has been unexpected?
It is very surprising and interesting to see how many students from different countries are represented at SIPA. I never thought I would be in a place where students from all around the world meet and learn. It is very inspiring for me. SIPA does a wonderful job of bringing the whole world together, in one way or another. Even though I have only been here for one semester, my SIPA experiences have already taught me so much about the importance of diversity in our world and how each person has so much to offer regardless of the differences that they may have.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add? 
I feel very privileged and honored to be studying at SIPA and Columbia University. The fellowship and scholarship that I have received are life changing, enabling this opportunity and helping to make it possible for my dreams to become reality.