Esam Boraey

Empowering Resilience: My Summer Research Journey in Jordan with Syrian Refugee Entrepreneurs

As a recipient of the Middle East Studies Summer Research Grant, I embarked on a transformative journey to Jordan during the summer of 2023. My mission was clear: to work closely with Syrian refugee entrepreneurs and delve into the intricate world of their formal and informal entrepreneurial activities. This experience not only broadened my academic horizons but also allowed me to witness the incredible resilience of individuals striving for a better future in the face of adversity.

My research journey took me to various communities in Jordan where Syrian refugees have found refuge. What struck me immediately was the determination and resilience of these individuals who, despite the challenges posed by displacement, were actively engaged in entrepreneurship. It was a testament to the indomitable human spirit.

One of the aspects I explored during my research was the distinction between formal and informal entrepreneurship. Syrian refugees in Jordan engage in a wide range of entrepreneurial activities, from small market stalls to tech startups. What fascinated me was how many of these ventures operated informally, outside the traditional business structures. This informal sector not only showcased the adaptability of Syrian entrepreneurs but also highlighted the need for policies that support and formalize these enterprises.

My time in Jordan was not solely dedicated to interviews and data collection. I had the privilege of immersing myself in the daily lives of the Syrian refugee entrepreneurs and their communities. These experiences were invaluable, as they allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the social and cultural contexts in which these businesses operate.

My research journey also allowed me to reflect on how my work ties into UConn's Abrahamic program and its broader goals. My is essential to recognize the nuanced connections. The Abrahamic program emphasizes unity, understanding, and support for marginalized communities, and my research echoed these principles. By shedding light on the entrepreneurial endeavors of Syrian refugees, I contributed to the program's mission of fostering empathy, solidarity, and collaboration across diverse backgrounds.

My summer in Jordan was a profound experience that has left an indelible mark on my academic and personal journey. It reinforced my belief in the power of entrepreneurship as a tool for empowerment and resilience. I am immensely grateful to Middle East Studies, the Office of Global Affairs, and UConn's Abrahamic Program for their support and encouragement.

In the coming months, I look forward to sharing more insights and findings from my research. I also hope to continue exploring ways in which my work can contribute to the broader conversation on refugee entrepreneurship, policy development, and the enduring spirit of those who refuse to be defined by their circumstances.

My research journey in Jordan was a humbling experience that underscored the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity. It reinforced the idea that, irrespective of our backgrounds, we all have the potential to create positive change in the world. I am excited to continue this journey, armed with the knowledge and experiences gained during my time in Jordan, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity provided by the Middle East Studies Summer Research Grant. 

Submitted September, 2023