One of Algonquin College’s Green Architecture program students, Wissam Annous, isn’t the average college graduate. Unlike many others, Wissam had spent over 6 years in post-secondary institutions. He even earned his Master’s degree in Architecture in his home country, Lebanon.
While in Lebanon, Wissam struggled to find a steady job with good pay. He ended up finding a job in the Arabian Gulf temporarily, and then moving around until he ended up in Dubai until 2009. A major crisis broke out in Arabian Gulf and Lebanon and left Wissam with two choices: be laid off and try and search for jobs that didn’t exist anymore or immigrate to another country and start all over.
“The choice was simple; I had to leave my home and everything I knew because my family always comes first. I have spent almost my whole life in Lebanon and it was scary to think that in order for my family to survive, we would have to give up everything in our home country and move across the world in hopes of a better future since ours was looking grim.”
In December 2009, Wissam and his family moved to Canada with the remaining of his life savings. They were ready for a fresh start. Unfortunately, Wissam couldn’t find a job. Like many new immigrants who come to Canada, his credentials did not meet the standards of many organizations because they were not from a Canada institution.
“It’s very frightening coming to a new country and discovering your many years of hard work, experience, and success mean nothing,” said Wissam. “It was difficult to obtain a minimum-wage job even with 6 years of post-secondary education.”
As his savings were quickly depleting, Wissam finally got a job as a roof inspector and obtained permanent residency here in Canada. Even after getting his residency, he still couldn’t get the jobs he wanted and realized he needed to go back to school and start his career over.
“I had many choices when it came to sustainable programs here in Ottawa,” said Wissam. “But Algonquin College’s Green Architecture program was the exact course I was looking for and they were the most accommodating program out there. I had to keep my full-time job during the day, so I needed a program that could accommodate my hours. Algonquin supported me throughout my stay.”
Wissam worked long hours during the day and went to school at night. He didn’t see his family much and strongly believed his two young children, Ahmad and Mariam, pushed him through his 12 hour days. He had always believed that doing something you love will always make you succeed and he knew this program was perfect for him.
“The professors were amazing,” said Wissam. “They were so supportive to me and did anything and everything they could to help me out. But working full-time, going to school full-time, being a loving father and husband, and trying to get my credentials assessed all the same time was truly exhausting. I look back on it now and I am amazed at myself. It really shows if you put your mind to something, anything can be possible, especially with great help of my loving wife, Ghina, friends and professors at Algonquin College.”
Wissam successfully received his foreign architecture education approved by the Canadian Certification Board during his first semester at Algonquin College with the help of his professors
“The professors took teaching to a whole new level,” said Wissam. “Instead of just reading out of a textbook or reading off a slideshow, they brought in new products to share with us, gave anecdotal stories that they have encountered in this field, and always took the time to get to know each student on a personal level.”
On Tuesday, June 21 at 2:00 p.m, Wissam will have officially graduated from Algonquin College’s Green Architecture program. He will be one of the first 2011 graduates to ever receive their diploma at the brand new ‘green’ Ottawa Convention Centre. He is very excited to graduate in front of his family in a building that represents his future career.
“It will be the best feeling to walk across that stage, knowing my wife and two children will be there watching me,” said Wissam. “For me, it will be an excellent lesson for my children to see that when you study and work hard, you can achieve anything, even when you have to start from scratch. I am hoping it will be a good incentive for them to love school and be more proud of their dad.”
Wissam will be heading back to Lebanon this summer to visit his family, who he hasn’t seen since he left for Canada, and will be returning back to Ottawa in September with the hope of landing a job/internship working as a Solar Specialist or an architect. He aspires one day to become a Full Canadian Citizen and to become a Registered Architect here in Canada.
“I never thought my passion would become my reality,” said Wissam. “I owe my fresh start and new life all to Algonquin College. This diploma means a second chance for my family and I and I couldn’t have done anything I have accomplished without my friends and professors at Algonquin College.”