Purchase is All in the Antar Family
For the Antar family, Purchase College is their school of choice—with five members who’ve either graduated, are now attending, or will soon attend.
Jenar Antar ’18 (sociology) currently attends Purchase, along with her cousin Shira Antar ’19 (literature). Jenar’s younger sister Zozan Antar ’17 also studied sociology and now has plans for graduate school, and her other cousin Shyar Antar ’17 double majored in biology and chemistry and is now applying to medical school. And Jenar’s younger sister, Lava Antar, attends community college this year and hopes to enter Purchase next fall to study the humanities.
The Antar family are Syrian immigrants who settled in Rockland County. Shyar was the first to choose Purchase, for both its proximity to home and for its solid reputation in the sciences. The others followed suit for similar reasons.
Jenar already holds a degree from a Syrian university, but in an effort to prevent its people from starting over in new countries, the Syrian government made it impossible to secure transcripts. Her only option was to start her college career from scratch.
She first attended Rockland Community College, then transferred to Purchase to finish her degree in sociology. The experience she’s had here, especially with her professors, has been nothing short of amazing.
“The faculty are so helpful. They know my situation, they know I have kids, they know I speak a different language. I can send them an email anytime and they respond,” she says. This was not the case at her Syrian university, where professors hardly ever spoke to students and were incredibly condescending when they did.
Finding A Purpose
Attending school again and earning her degree has given Jenar a purpose and she couldn’t be happier. She’d been living in Dubai before coming to the U.S. Her husband had a job there, but as a stay-at-home mom, “I did nothing for myself,” she says. She has two children, ages 7 and 4.
As the unrest in Syria worsened, they knew returning to their hometown of Qamishli, in the Kurdish region of northeast Syria, would be impossible. Jenar had a U.S. green card already, and once her husband secured his in 2013, they moved to New York. Her uncle was already a U.S. citizen living in New City, so they settled there as well.
Jenar considers herself very lucky—she has two older sisters who do not have U.S. green cards. They suffered the plight of many Syrian refugees—leaving their war-torn home and experiencing great hardships until they were finally allowed to settle in Germany months after they left Syria.
For her senior project, Jenar is tackling a subject that really hits home—she’s exploring what motivates women to join ISIS and other terrorist groups. As a parent herself, she’s particularly struck by how mothers could involve their children in terrorist activities. “How could they do this to their kids? What’s this belief that lets you do this? It’s unbelievable,” she says.
While she misses home, and would like to return for a visit someday, coming to the U.S. has been the best part of her life. “I’m getting a degree, I’m learning a lot. I feel like I’m doing something for myself. I can work now,” Jenar says.
After graduation, she plans to apply to graduate schools to pursue social work.