August 18, 2022
Ever since she can remember, Ashki Shkur has wanted to be a pediatric surgeon. But growing up in Kurdistan, a region of Iraq where women are often forced to stop going to school, she worried her dream would never come true.
In 2016 Ashki, along with her parents and younger sister, entered the United States on a Visa. They tried seeking asylum in Canada but were turned back and told to wait one year before returning and making a refugee claim.
In January 2017 the United States barred visitors from many Muslim countries including Iraq. Ashki and her family feared they would be deported, so they decided to cross into Canada two days short of their one-year anniversary attempt at seeking asylum. The family lived in a refugee centre for several months and eventually moved into a home in Vancouver supported by BC Housing.
Now, five years since moving to Canada, Ashki has graduated grade 12 and is entering UBC’s Bachelor of Science program in the fall as a recipient of the Centennial Scholars Entrance Award.
“It’s very cliché, but winning this award has literally changed my life,” says Ashki. “Being able to start university without having to worry about finances is such a big help.”
Although she was offered scholarships to many universities, Ashki has always wanted to go to UBC—she’s had the logo pinned in her room as a form of inspiration for years. But without the Centennial Scholars Entrance Award, it might not have been possible. Her father is a landscaper who works seasonally and her mother stays at home with Ashki and her siblings.
“I’ll be the first person in my family to go to university,” says Ashki. “Both my parents dropped out in grade six because of having to work and because of gender-based persecution. So now, it’s amazing to see them so excited for me. Every time they talk to a family member they say, ‘This is Ashki, the small one who wanted to be a doctor and now she’s getting there by going to one of the best universities in Canada.’”
There are many things Ashki is looking forward to about going to UBC, including meeting new people who share similar interests with her. She plans to be very involved in the UBC community, just as she was involved with her high school community. Ashki was student council president in her final year, and co-founded two non-profit organizations, one that promotes youth activism and another that provides a safe environment for people who self-identify as female to talk about issues they’re facing.
Ashki plans to specialize in microbiology and immunology, and after completing her undergraduate degree she hopes to attend medical school at UBC.
“I want to say thank you so much to the donors for giving me this opportunity and helping me work toward my dreams,” says Ashki. “Something I really want to do in the future is give back to students and make sure those in my position are also able to accomplish their dreams with my help, just like how I’m being helped right now.”