Author Archives: emmalefebvre

Week 12: Halfway There!

Looking back over these past twelve weeks, I am certainly in awe of how far I have come.  I started this project as a naive, optimistic, uneducated 16 year old, and have transformed myself into a still-optimistic slightly more educated 16 year old.  However, I am only halfway up my mountain. I plan to continue to work on my independent project over the summer and into the first semester of senior year.  In this new phase of my project, I plan to continue to keep up with Syria in the news as well as watching interviews of the refugees online.  I was also recently put in touch with a local Syrian refugee organization not far away from Westtown so I will be looking forward to hopefully being able to get some interviews there.  If all goes well, I hope to be finished interviewing and putting together my final product in time to present to the entire school next winter.

Speaking of interviews, I am happy to announce I have conducted my first official interview with a Syrian refugee! As I mentioned in previous posts, I have been hoping to get in touch with a Westtown alum named Jamal for a while, and as of last Tuesday it finally happened.  The questions I wrote up with Teacher Pat proved extremely useful, and I am very excited to see what other information my future interviews will bring in.  Jamal was able to give me a broad overview of the conflict from his perspective, as well as tell me the hardships of his own personal journey to the United States.  If you are interested in watching it, I have attached a link to a teaser of the interview at the bottom of this post.

To sum things up, I have learned a lot this semester.  From always double checking to ensure your video camera is on before conducting an interview to the value of persistence, the hands-on factor of this project has taught me so many things that cant be learned inside a classroom.  I am immensely grateful for the opportunity I was given to study Syrian refugees this semester, and am looking forward to seeing where it will take me in the coming months!

Watch my interview with Jamal here

Image credit:

Week 11: Productivity

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This past week has been an exciting one.  After a bit of a lull in activity for my project, I have finally gotten back at it and am looking forward to productive last few weeks of this semester.  My anticipation all started with discovery of the wealth of online interviews of Syrian refugees last week.  Since then I have watched more than a half of dozen, and am aiming to try to watch one each day.  This will not only keep me updated with the crisis, but will allow me learn more about my subjects too.

One interview in particular stands out to me (you can find the link at the bottom of this post).  It was published by Middle Eastern news channel Al Jazeera, and followed a Syrian woman who was recently resettled along with her family in Sacramento, California.  It stood out to me because it challenged the way I see refugees in the US.  Before watching the interview, I assumed that refugees would always be happy to be resettled in the US, and that it was the best option for them.  However, the woman in the interview was not happy to be hear.  She desperately missed everything about home, from her neighbors to the food. She would have rather been resettled in Europe because at least it felt a bit closer to home. After watching the interview ,  I was able to create some additional interview questions to help me delve further into that emotion.  A sample of them are listed below:

  • What was your life like four years ago?
  • Would you have preferred to been settled in an Arab country rather than Sacramento?
  • Do you think the US should resettle a larger amount of refugees?

Before I sign off for this week, I have one final piece of good news I would like to share.  I have recently herd back from Jamal, the Westtown alum from Syria who graduated a few years back, and he is willing to interview with me over Skype this week. Stay tuned!

Interview and Image Credit:

Week 10: Just Keep Swimming

May 2, 2016

It seems every week I learn a new lesson about working on an independent project.  This week I learned the value of continued progress.  Recently I’ve been so caught up in reaching out to different organizations in the hope of getting access to another interview that I feel as if I lost sight of one of the core goals of my project—to educate myself as much as possible on the Syrian crisis.  So, starting this week, I am returning my focus on research. I have done as much as possible on the interview phase as of right now, but I must continue to set and accomplish new goals if I don’t want to sink.  Or in Dory’s words from Finding Nemo, I need to just keep swimming.

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To kick off my renewed effort of educating myself about the conflict, I watched a series of interviews of Syrian refugees on youtube.  Often these mini documentaries were made on rudimentary phone cameras, but the picture it gave me of the conflict couldn’t have been more clear.   One documentary in particular reignited my interest in the topic.  Published by the english news source The Guardian, it followed a family of Syrian refugees as they walked from Budapest, Hungary to Vienna, Austria, in hopes of finding asylum.  My favorite part about the documentary is it focusing on capturing the humanity of the refugees through little moments, whether it be the husband and wife playing cards after a long day walking or the children singing even though their feet bleed from too small shoes.  I hope to be able to invoke similar emotions when I create my documentary.  Wish me luck!

You can find the Guardian documentary here:

Image credits:

Week 9: Thoughts and Projections

This week has a been a bit rough in the world of independent projects.  After getting the taste of actually producing something from my research with the interview with Layth last week, I am eager to conduct another interview.  However, if I have learned one lesson from this project, it is that things are almost always easier said than done.  This wisdom has absolutely been the case for me this week.  Immediately after interviewing Layth, I began looking for more potential candidates, ideally a Syrian refugee. Continue reading

Week 7: Adjusting Expectations

Throughout the two months in which I have been working on my independent project, I have seen it evolve from a naive dream to a concrete vision.  I have quickly learned of the challenges pursuing independent work ensues, and have adjusted my project according to them. The most recent issue came up in a chat with Teacher Deb. We were speaking about the next steps of my project, as I am nearing the end of my research phase.  She knew of my plan to create a documentary style film focusing on the stories of the Syrian refugees I would interview, and raised the concern of where I would find these people in he US.  Continue reading

Week 6: Disappointments and Triumphs


These past few weeks have been a mixed bag in terms of accomplishments in my independent project.  One of the major disappointments I encountered was a few weeks ago.  I was in the UK visiting some colleges, and I was very excited to realize that one of schools I was touring was home to a world renown institute dedicated to studying the Syrian crisis. I was hoping to be able to stop by and ask the experts there some questions on their opinion on how to solve the situation.   Continue reading

Week 5: Finally Going Places

This week I began my quest of finding actual Syrian Refugees to interview.  I know this is by new means a simple process and is going to take quite some time to organize.  I figured the best place for me to start was to use the contacts that I was given last week at Germantown Meeting.   One man in particular that the meeting is trying to help is called Yousef Abbara.  Continue reading

Week Four: Lessons from Outside the Classrom

Today was an eventful day in the life of my independent project.  Teacher Pat organized for me to go to Germantown Friends Meeting, where a man named Marwan Kreidie was giving a talk on Islamaphobia and Syrian refugees.  Marwan is actually considered a refugee himself, his parents having immigrated from Lebanon just before he was born.  Meeting with Marwan was a very helpful experience.  By the end of the hour long talk, I not only had learned a lot, but had the names to several key organizations in the local area that are helping Syrian refugees. Continue reading

Week 3: Progress

It feels like my project has finally started get moving.  I have a clear goal, and all that is left to do   now is jump in and get busy.  This week I kept myself busy, reading a three articles Teacher Jennifer had recommended from TIME magazine, all about refugee children and their stories.  These articles would be particularly helpful if I end up deciding to make a documentary on the stories of Syrian refugee children.  I also watched a short documentary on YouTube about the lives of the refugees.  This was another invaluable resource because it actually gave me a window into the lives of refugees living in temporary settlements in Calais, France.  Here’s the link to the documentary if you are interested:


Photo: Christopehr Pledger/The Telegraph

I have also set up official meeting times with my project advisors at this point.  Unfortunately, both of these meetings happen to fall on the same night (my Thursday evenings are suddenly looking quite busy). but I am excited to show them the progress I am making on my project.  Teacher Joseph is an invaluable resource when it comes to finding articles on the subject and keeping up to date with the current events of the issue.  He also has kindly taken it upon himself to find an appropriate broad documentary on Syria, in hopes that I will be able to learn some more about the country that is home to the crisis.

Teacher Pat has also been incredibly helpful to me throughout my project.  The other night we had a long talk about my vision of the project and what I wanted to get out of it, and she posed a very intriguing question for me.  She asked me if perhaps the reason why I was so interested in studying Syrian refugees was because I can relate to leaving behind my birth country.  My family came to America from England just a few months after my fifth birthday, and though we do go back and visit quite often, I sometimes surprise myself in how much I ache to be back in the foggy hills and grey pastures that are my mother country.  Teacher Pat then went on to ask me how I would feel if a war broke out in England, and if I was never able to return.  I remember an inexplicable wave of anguish washed over me, even just thinking about the prospects.  It felt as if I had lost a piece of me.  While that exercise obviously did not to justice to the sadness Syrian refugees face, it helped me relate to their feelings  a bit more.  As I continue with this project, I hope I will continue to ask myself tough questions such as these and push myself to live in their shoes.  I look forward to see where my new strategy will take me.