Sajida had just begun her university education at the Engineering Technical Institute in Damascus when the bombs began to fall. It was November 2014, and the 19-year-old fled with her family to Turkey, where she worked in a clothing factory, a Syrian restaurant, and a library before finally getting the chance to travel to Greece.
“The water was up to my neck,” she says, recounting a struggle to reach the dinghy that would take her across a narrow strait to the island of Lesbos. Alternating among trains, buses, and simply walking, Sajida and her older sister eventually made their way to Germany. As she describes her trek, Sajida is brutally concise about the ordeal refugees like her must endure, particularly when braving unforgiving seas. “It was terrifying,” she says.