Fardous Bahbouh – What Syrians have taught us about courage and determination



By Lela Struga

Fardous Bahbouh is an education and language specialist who has worked at various universities and language institutes in many countries.

Born and raised in the small lovely town of Nabik, in the suburb of Damascus in Syria, Fardous had a happy childhood in her large family, and enjoyed the beautiful mountainous scenery and the close bonds with her community. She told me “the great memories of my childhood and the warmth of my family are indeed what keep me going regardless of all hardships”.

From an early age, she loved reading and excelled at her studies especially in Maths, Arabic and English. She started reading great works of literature, which offered her a unique insight into various cultures. Her dream of travelling the world and learning more languages was inspired by a verse in the holy Quran stating that our different languages and colours are among God’s signs (Verse 22, Chapter 30). “Among His proofs are the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours. In these, there are signs for the knowledgeable”.

Fardous followed her passion for knowledge and her dream of exploring the world. She travelled to the United States to complete her BA. In 2009, she came to London, the Fog city as it is called it in Arabic, to complete her Master in Teaching and Applied Linguistics. She was keen on discovering for herself the beauty of London, and enjoying the multiculturalism and multilingualism of the international city. Fardous also spent about a year learning Turkish in Istanbul.

Once we discover what is meaningful for us, we can then enjoy life and start thinking every day: “This is going to be my best day!”

Do you believe in happiness and what is happiness for you? 

For me, happiness is about leading a meaningful life. It is about compassion and love. Personally, feeling the presence of God in my life makes it all worthwhile. Everywhere I travel and whatever I am doing, I always know that He is watching over us, and this gives me strength and inspires me to help other people. I also chose a career in teaching and education because I believe in the value of inspiring and empowering people to help them realise their goals. It gives me great joy seeing my students being successful in their different fields and that every one of them is contributing to the community in their own ways. So once we discover what is meaningful for us, we can then enjoy life and start thinking every day: “This is going to be my best day!”

What was the best happiness that you have experienced? 

A family reunion is always a great happiness. I vividly remember going back home after my graduation, seeing my family and friends and sharing with them the joy of my achievement. My family and my friends all over the world are the greatest gift of my life and they all contributed to my success.

When you realise that you are not happy, what do you do in order to change that? 

I do not allow myself to be unhappy. I usually keep an optimistic outlook on life, balanced with empathy to all those who are struggling all over the world. If I feel down, I remind myself of all the meaningful things and great people in my life.

Also, I am always up for a new challenge and learning new things. As Sarah Lewis says “We thrive not when we have done it all, but when we still have more to do.» For example, I started my career as a teacher and a translator. I then worked as an academic advisor and voice-over artist. I also worked as a teacher trainer and helped many people pursue a teaching career. Now, I am establishing an Arabic Language Centre in London. So far, the entrepreneurial journey has been amazing, and it is keeping me excited and focused.

I have chosen the name ‘Arabic Language Jawaher’ because in Arabic, Jawaher means “jewels.” I do believe that languages are precious, and it is priceless to be able to communicate with another person in their native language. The name is attributed to a phenomenal brave Syrian woman who decided to go back to Syria on her own, to be with her three daughters. Jawaher now works as an English teacher at elementary and secondary schools in Syria. She is my hero: her personality, her love and dedication to her daughters and to educating children are great inspirations for me.

Now, I am establishing an Arabic Language Centre in London. So far, the entrepreneurial journey has been amazing, and it is keeping me excited and focused.

What kind of memories do you have from your country – were you happy there? 

I have very fond memories of Syria. My favourite is walking in the old city of Damascus, and admiring the historical buildings and the small spice shops. Even with the war now, I strongly hold on to my belief that the war will end, and we will rebuild the country and make it as beautiful and magnificent as it used to be. Looking at the bright side, Syrians have taught me and the whole world a great deal about courage, determination, devotion, patience and creativity.

How does the everyday life (the external circumstances) affect your happiness? 

We do not usually have control over external circumstances, but we can control our attitudes and try to overcome the challenges we face without losing sight of our goals. It is extremely important to have a vision for our life. We also have to accept that we can’t get all that we desire, and we should appreciate what we have.

What about the people that surround you – is it important for you to be surrounded by happy people? 

It is important for me to be around kind and understanding people who bring positive energy and optimism. They might be unhappy at some point, but we should always help each other. As I mentioned earlier, loving and meaningful relations are essential, and helping other people reach happiness could be the greatest joy of life.

How do you feel when your beloved friends or family members are not happy and what do you do to help them? 

I always try my best to help. Whenever I can, I am eager to assist others in finding a solution or changing an unhappy situation. And if there is no immediate solution, I will be there for them to offer comfort and support.

Do you think that happiness is something we have to work hard for, or that we can achieve it easily? 

Well, life is hard and being happy takes efforts and hard work. I also believe that the harder our goal is, the harder we need to work, and then the greater our sense of achievement will be – as long as we don’t lose our vision, and we are able to eliminate all self-doubt and limiting beliefs. It also requires positive energy, optimism and wisdom.

Fardous Bahbouh – “Always Smile!” Because no matter how hard the situation may seem, there is always a solution.

For example, I have recently started cycling professionally. It has been a rewarding and empowering experience. Even though, at some point, I doubted that I could make it and I was concerned that I might fail. However, I did not give up. I had all the determination, perseverance and persistence required to overcome all the difficulties and build more muscles! Finally, when I made it to the top of the first hill, I was super excited. Also, sliding downhill, I loved the feeling that I was flying and free. Since then, the higher and harder the hill is, the more exciting sliding down becomes.

What is your advice about happiness that you would like to share with our readers?

My advice to all readers and my motto in life is “Always Smile!” Because no matter how hard the situation may seem, there is always a solution. Compassion is also the key to happiness. Keep on giving and your life will be richer!

Photo by Francisco Cruzat