Just three years ago, Shoushi Bakarian, together with her parents and sister, were in Lebanon facing an uncertain future, as they had fled their home as refugees. The family was previously living in Aleppo – a Syrian city which has been torn by war. Fast-forward 36 months and we find Shoushi, a now 22-year-old, studying aerospace engineering in Montreal’s Concordia University and working both in Bombardier Aerospace and Stratos Aviation (a small aviation and flight simulation company), while at the same time, busy co-creating a renewable energy device for aircraft.

Shoushi Bakarian is a Syrian-Armenian refugee from Aleppo

Image credits: Dario Ayala

In Syria, she was living together with her mom Ani, father Antaranik, and her now 24-year-old sister, Meghri. Both daughters earned their high school diplomas during the madness of Syrian war, with exploding bombs and flying missiles overhead, not far from their school in Aleppo. “Our school was in the firing line, so we had to study in a kindergarten in these tiny little chairs,” Shoushi remembers. “I always make jokes about it, but it’s not funny.”

By 2015, the situation in Syria got so bad, that the family knew they had to flee

Image credits: Dario Ayala

“In Grade 10, the big bombs started, by Grade 11, we were without electricity or running water or internet. Some people started to leave but we didn’t know how to get out of Aleppo. We didn’t know who was on the road waiting to kidnap us. Once the missiles started falling, we didn’t know where they were coming from or where they’d land.”

The unresolved medical issues that Shoushi’s mother had were the final turning point for the family and they moved to Lebanon

Image credits: Globe and Mail

There, the family spent a year until the mother recovered. Both parents came to conclusion that education and job opportunities in Lebanon were limited. That’s when Canada opened its borders to Syrian refugees. In late 2015, the Bakarians arrived in Canada to start their new life. The four of them enrolled in French classes and set about finding work. Shoushi got hired at McDonald’s – a job which helped her family survive until her parents found work.

In Montreal, Shoushi and her sister enrolled into Concordia university

Image credits: Fly Stratos

Shoushi was still working 30 hours a week in McDonald’s while studying aerospace engineering and the workload started to get to her: “I was physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted,” she says. “But now I’m making up for it. My family is okay now, and it’s easier.” While studying, Shoushi fell in love with aviation and renewable energy propulsion systems. Arpi Hamalian, an education professor at Concordia, took the Bakarian girls under her wing when they showed up at an orientation back in 2016. “They were looking a little lost,” Dr. Hamalian mentioned to the media. But it didn’t take long to get them on the right track. “Both girls know exactly who they are and where they are going. They are unbelievably talented, focused and team-oriented. There aren’t many like them,” the professor added. Soon enough, Naor Cohen, the owner of Stratos Aviation, hired Shoushi within days of meeting her during an outreach program for women in aviation. She started out as an instructor on the company’s flight simulators.

Today, Shoushi is a third year student, works at Bombardier Aerospace and Stratos Aviation and is the brain behind the newest aviation innovation there

Image credits: Globe and Mail

It’s called The Ventus – a 5-volt accessory charger for Cessna airplanes that runs off the aircraft’s air vents and cools the air by compressing it. This prototype will likely become essential for pilots, who rely on smartphones and tablets for aviation computation while flying an aircraft made long before the smartphone era. “I like clean energy, solar power, wind power, so we developed it further to add onto the charger idea,” she says. “I spent my summer designing, drawing and testing until it worked.”

“I want to reach girls and tell them they don’t have to limit themselves to traditional jobs, like teachers,” Shoushi says

Image credits: Stratos Aviation

“Especially for girls from my community, they have a very limited idea of what’s out there,” she adds. “I want to become an example.” And she did become one – Shoushi Bakarian is the inspiration for all of us, showing that no matter where you came from and what your struggles were, you can still make it.