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Content Learning Perspectives from Refugee Students

By Seruhungo Ndagijimana, Valens Tuyishime, Iribagiza Nyiramugisha and Fatima Alzahraa Sharouf

The increase in refugees over the last few years has put a spotlight on the importance of refugee education. Education is indeed vital to refugees: it helps them learn skills, build confidence, think critically and improve chances at earning an income and moving out of poverty. This is good not only for refugees, but all of society.

As the UNHCR notes, failing to educate children in camps can help perpetuate conflict and “means lost opportunities for peaceful and sustainable development in our world.” From the first lessons through to university, education helps refugees stand on their own feet, allowing them to prepare for the future.

As refugee students ourselves, we want to highlight educators, administrators and other stakeholders about the importance of “content learning”: creating content with the goal to crystallize our thinking, grow our networks, spark our curiosity and inspire us to innovate. We have seen the benefits of this process through our involvement with Global Innovators Academy. We each interviewed one innovator or entrepreneur and wrote articles published online. We will share some of the benefits we have gleaned later in this article.

We also sought to understand how different refugee students have benefitted from creating content in their academic studies that didn’t involve publication online. We interviewed 20 refugee students from Lebanon and Rwanda. We focused on content learning through the lens of materials created in their studies. We prepared a list of questions and included open-ended behavioral questions so that the students can elaborate on their skills and experiences in creating content.

Benefit #1: Gain knowledge and develop critical thinking skills.

All the students talked about the knowledge gained after they created content about different topics. Raghad, a student at SNHU based in Lebanon, shared how she learned about six different cultures while she created a report about cultural anthropology and food. Before the report, Raghad did not know much about the meanings behind symbols and rituals in other cultures.

Nour Maaz

Creating content improves critical thinking skills. All the students shared that they experienced a difference in the way they think as a result of creating content. It encouraged them to think outside the box and provide benefits to an audience.

Nour, an SNHU student based in Lebanon, shared: “I realized the great impact creating content had on my critical thinking skills. Now I deal with my surroundings like I am doing research.”

Benefits #2: Spark curiosity

Content creation increases students’ curiosity. According to the student interviewees from different countries, creating content helped them to dive deep into topics. Narjes, a student at Southern New Hampshire University based in Lebanon, talked about her experience with artificial intelligence. After participating in a program on this topic, she attended workshops about intellectual intelligence on her own as part her learning journey.

Benefit #3: Expand students’ networks.

Malaz Arroub

When students create content as a part of their academic work, they are able to expand their network. “Creating content helped me to grow my network through collaborating with other people; now I have friends and collaborators from different parts of the world,” said Emima, based in Rwanda.

Malaz, a student at Southern New Hampshire University based in Lebanon, considers himself to be an introvert. He doesn’t like to start conversations with strangers, but all this has changed after he designed a calendar for one of his supervisors. She was impressed by the high quality of his content. Later on, she introduced him to people who he never imagined feeling comfortable speaking with. These people offered him different jobs.

Benefit #4: Come up with confidence for refugee students.

Creating content builds confidence. This was a reflection from Alice, a student based in Rwanda. After she started preparing and delivering presentations, she felt confident to share more frequently in front of others. Creating content pushes students to go behind their fears and gives them strength to stand in front of the audience while they are delivering their bright ideas.

Benefit #5: Encourage students to be innovators.

Creating content can encourage students to innovate. Take for example Emma, a student based in Rwanda. She attended a communications workshop and came away with a great idea. “It pushed me to think how I can create something that can benefit my community and now I am implementing my new business of turning large agricultural businesses into small businesses by using greenhouses and feeding children affected by malnutrition.”

Key Lessons

The aforementioned examples are terrific as a starting point. But we think that it would be recommended for educational experiences to provide opportunities for students to create content by interviewing others and publishing online. This process helped us in many ways. Here are each of our reflections.


I interviewed two amazing people that I have never imagined talking with: Courtney Welsh, the CEO of Global Nomads Group, and Dr. Paul LeBlanc, the President of Southern New Hampshire University. Both of them were the first in their families to go to college and earn a degree. They also have the same vision of improving education and making it accessible for people in different parts of the world. Here is my article about Dr. LeBlanc and the following piece highlights the lessons I learned from Ms. Welsh.

Dr. Paul LeBlanc, President of SNHU

This process was unique and different from all of my previous experiences. I was standing face to face with my fear of talking to new people whom I have never met before. This was a great challenge for me, especially since I had the opportunity to connect with individuals who have been so successful. I must say that my fear disappeared as soon as I began speaking to them.

Publishing an article online made me aware of the great importance of content marketing. They say your firsts are special points in one’s life. I experienced many firsts: the first time to interview an innovator, the first time to write an article about an innovator, and the first time to publish something online. But the most important lesson is that I learned how valuable it is to receive feedback from different people. I am really proud to be part of this experience which definitely made me stronger and more confident.


I interviewed an inspiring entrepreneur in my community - Antoine Mugiraneza - who developed a successful t-shirt business. It was extremely motivating to speak with him and learn from his experiences. Writing an article online broadened my horizons. I never had done this before. From the feedback and using the Global Innovators Academy course experience, I learned how to summarize an individual’s ideas into a comprehensive article that can be useful for readers. (Here is the link to the article). Valens I interviewed Egide Niyongira, the Administrator and East Africa Employment Lead at Southern New Hampshire University, Global Education Movement (SNHU GEM). He was very happy to share with me the key points that can motivate young professionals. When I was working on this article, I was wondering what it would look like. I was pleased with how it turned out - you can read the article for yourself. After publishing it, I have made it a goal to interview others. I have seen how this process can enable me to enhance my networking skills. Iribagiza

Tuyishime Nshizirungu

I interviewed Tuyishime Nshizirungu, an entrepreneur in my community. He was very glad to share with me his story and advice for aspiring innovators. It was really useful to hear his thoughts on how I can be successful in my future career. As I was working on this article, I was visualizing different ways to apply his advice. I learned that I always need to have a growth mindset and be persistent in creating my dream job. Here is the article about Tuyishime.

So after interviewing students and then sharing our reflections, we advise students to do the following:

  1. Interview other professionals or graduate students to learn more about their life lessons.

  2. Write at least one blog post about an area you are interested in working in one time per month.

  3. Use social media strategically.

This will take your learning to the next level. We trust that it will crystallize your thinking, grow your networks, spark your curiosity and inspire you to innovate in ways that you never experienced before.

Connect with the authors on LinkedIn: Seruhungo Ndagijimana, Valens Tuyishime, Iribagiza Nyiramugisha and Fatima Alzahraa Sharouf. Learn more about the Global Innovators Academy's Interview an Innovator experience.

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