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Rym Ben Berrah: A remarkable student

June 17, 2019 - 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 ambassador of One Young World since November 2015. She was also an elected member of the board of the Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario from October 2016 to October 2018, a member of Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne’s youth advisory council from 2017 to 2018, and 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. As I had lived through various experiences and adventures, I think it is useful to share them with members of my community so they can learn from them. 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. 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. They were particularly close to my heart because these three great ideas form my identity. 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?
At the end of a very long journey. 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. That diagnosis 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 within a year or two. So in 2013, I registered at La Cité in a program for working with people with disabilities because it had a placement rate of 99.9%. My citizen involvement started with my studies at La Cité.

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 didn’t even know these courses existed! I finished my program and registered in the public relations program in 2015. When some SPU representatives came to give a presentation on the transfer agreements they have with colleges, it was like a revelation.

I said to myself, “That is exactly what I need! I don’t have time to do a B.A. in four years, so 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. That was the best decision of my life.

In 2016, I received the Ontario Francophonie Award (Young Francophone category) for my involvement in the Ontario francophone community, and 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, international studies), international relations section, at Université Laval. This master’s program, which accepts only a limited number of students, 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 this training, 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!


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