Eid Aljazairli, a second-year Accounting and Finance student at King’s Business School, could not swim when he risked his life to escape Syria and cross the Mediterranean by boat in 2016.
When tragedy struck and his boat broke, Eid found himself fighting to stay afloat in the freezing cold water.
I just remember thinking – I didn’t die in Syria, am I really going to die here in this water?– Eid Aljazairli, second-year Accounting and Finance student at King’s Business School
After a perilous journey through Europe, Eid eventually made it to the UK. However, he could not speak a word of English and had to survive on just £5 a day while living a hostel – a period he describes as one of the “darkest points” of his life.
But one thing Eid always had was an unwavering spirit.
“Arriving in the UK was very challenging – learning a new language, understanding a different culture, and just being in a different country with no friends and no family. It was really hard but I knew wanted to make a better life for myself.”
In Syria, Eid had been studying at Damascus University before his education was cut short when he had to flee the country. “I really wanted to continue my journey and continue building my career,” he said.
However it was not a straightforward path. Like many refugee students, Eid was rejected by a number of UK universities because he did not speak English.
Undeterred, he began learning the language from scratch so that he could pursue his dream to continue his studies.
Eid’s commitment eventually paid off when he secured a place on a Foundation course at King’s, following which he received an offer to study Accounting and Finance at King’s Business School.
“I remember getting my offer from King’s and it was one of the most amazing moments I have ever had in my life. I couldn’t believe it was happening,” he recalled.
Now finishing his second year and about to head into his third, Eid has fully immersed himself into university life, embracing every opportunity that comes his way.
Testament to his hard work, Eid has gained experience at some of the world’s most prestigious investment banks, after securing places on some highly competitive schemes and programmes in London’s financial district.
He has taken on various roles at the university too, including becoming a mentor for Foundation year students, sharing his invaluable advice and experiences from his own journey to those who are new to the UK or university life.
Studying at King’s has opened up so many opportunities for me. Everyone at the university is very supportive and I feel like I really belong here, like this is my home– Eid Aljazairli
Since arriving in the UK Eid has also developed an unlikely passion: swimming.
“My dream to learn how to swim started in 2018. I was sitting at the hostel one night watching YouTube and I came across a video about the American swimmer Michael Phelps,” he explained. “I had never heard of Michael Phelps before but I remember thinking wow, this guy is amazing! It really ignited a passion in me and I knew then I had to learn how to swim.”
Despite never having swum before – and coupled with a crippling fear of the water following his near-death experience at sea – Eid somehow plucked up the courage to learn.
Remarkably, he taught himself by watching videos and observing other swimmers. Not to mention dedicating himself to a rigorous training schedule, spending four or five hours a day in the pool.
“At first I had so much fear with the water. It frightened me so much,” he said. “But I turned my fear into a positive thing. Day after day I started to feel differently in the water. It became a place where I feel safe and happy.”
Within six months Eid mastered all four swimming strokes and within a year, in 2019, he was honoured with the ‘London Adult Achievement Award’ by Swim England. In 2020, he also received the esteemed Gold National Adult Achievement Award in 2020.
Today Eid is a member of Camden Swimming Club, as well as King’s Swimming Club. His coaches say he brings an “abundance of positivity and enthusiasm”.
Eid is also part of the King’s Sports Performance Programme, which provides elite student-athletes with a support network to help them perform to the highest level possible in their dual-career. Through strength and conditioning, nutrition, physiotherapy, lifestyle and wellbeing support, the programme aims to offer King’s students a world-class environment to improve athletically alongside their world-class education.
“Being in the water taught me a lot of skills – skills that I am applying to my degree and in my life,” continued Eid. “Swimming has taught me about time management, discipline, patience, and hard work.
As soon I dive in the water I feel like I am in another world – I am not a refugee, I am not ashamed, I am not being judged. I am just in my own lane.– Eid Aljazairli
With just over a year to go until the Summer Olympic Games in Paris next July, Eid has dreams of qualifying for the 2024 Refugee Team – a dream his coaches think could become a reality as his strokes edge closer to Olympic qualifying times.
"It’s more than just about winning, it’s about changing the sport and inspiring others. Dreams know no limits when passion drives us forward," he added.