Rym Ben Berrah — A remarkable student
Many people got to know Rym Ben Berrah during her time at Saint Paul University (SPU), on campus and elsewhere in the community. This young woman’s citizen involvement is outstanding. She has been a member of the board of directors of the Centre de la francophonie des Amériques since December 2017, vice-chair of the Théâtre la Catapulte board since November 2018, member of the SPU Board of Governors since June 2018, and many more including a director of La Cité’s student board of governors from 2014 to 2017. Here is a portrait of an engaged, influential and dynamic graduate – an agent of change.
Why do you feel the need to get so involved?
I think that a person who has the abilities and the option to get involved should do it. I get involved because I want to help those who, like me, immigrated to Canada and had to face the same kinds of challenges that I encountered. Also, getting involved allowed me to further my education while putting into practice some lessons learned in everyday life.
What is your favourite cause?
La francophonie, Islamophobia and immigration are the three causes that led to my first encounter with citizen involvement. I am Muslim, with an immigrant background. When I arrived in Canada, I lived in Montreal but I later learned that there were francophones outside Quebec, too. It was only when I moved to Ottawa that I developed an interest in these three causes. The more time I spent in Franco-Ontarian environments, the more I realized that each person is shaped by several small battles. Deep down, we are all the same and we have a common goal: that Franco-Ontarians may enjoy a better quality of life and greater recognition nationally and internationally.
You started your studies at uOttawa. How did you end up studying at SPU?
After a year at the University of Ottawa, I was feeling very discouraged by life’s uncertainties. It was a particularly painful time, as my father had just received a cancer diagnosis which caught my family and me off guard. We were in financial need. I told myself that I had to finish my studies quickly so I could enter the job market. So in 2013, I registered at La Cité and it is there that my citizen involvement began.
I began to speak publicly more and more often. People around me told me I was very good in this role and really encouraged me to take courses in public relations. I finished my program and then registered in the public relations program.
Then, SPU representatives came to give a presentation on the transfer agreements they have with colleges, it was a revelation. I said to myself, “That is exactly what I need! I don’t have four years to do a B.A. I received credit for the equivalent of two years, then studied at SPU for two more years so I could get a college diploma as well as a B.A.” That day, I knew I would be a future ambassador of Saint Paul University. I knew that was where I wanted to study. The friendliness of SPU and the fact that you are a person and not a number among many others was just what I needed. It was the best decision of my life.
In 2017, I started my bachelor’s in social communication with a minor in conflict studies at Saint Paul University.
What are your career goals ?
As my studies at SPU were coming to an end, I wanted to continue my education. I applied to the École supérieure d’études internationales (Graduate school, inter-national studies), international relations section, at Université Laval. This master’s program, trains future diplomats – people who will work in international NGOs and government offices abroad. It’s the only program that interested me, and fortunately, I was accepted.
When I finish, I would like to work as a Canadian representative at the International Organisation of la Francophonie, in Europe, Africa or even the Middle East. Who knows where this new training will take me.
Congratulations, Rym! You are a role model for our students. SPU will follow your career closely and will continue to celebrate each of your successes.