'I’m setting out on the same journey they once did'

Scholarship student Johan Baalbaki about his journey to Nyenrode

Born to a family full of entrepreneurs, from the time he was a child John Baalbaki was already determined to follow in the footsteps of his role model: his father. Inspired by his father’s entrepreneurial spirit, Johan worked his way through middle school and high school, eventually going on to earn his higher professional education (HBO) diploma. Now a scholarship through Stichting Nyenrode Fonds (SNF or Nyenrode Fund) has made it possible for Johan to take the next step: pursuing a BSc in Business Administration at Nyenrode. Here he talks about leadership, perseverance and the importance of setbacks for success.

Johan’s career began at the age of six when he and his twin brother sold Christmas decorations in the neighborhood. 'Come on', the young entrepreneur said to his twin. 'We’re going to sell something.' He sourced the floral foam from his father’s business and cut the roses off of bushes himself. Even back then, he could hardly sit still and always liked to stay busy. 'I wasn’t much of a reader', he says. 'I wanted to play football.'

His struggles with reading comprehension resulted in a low test score that drove a wedge between him and his dream of becoming a pilot. The advice: vocational education. 'But I’ve got two left feet', Johan says with a laugh. He stood his ground and managed to convince his teachers to let him continue on to the theoretical education track and subsequent high school level, because to get a job as a pilot he would need an HBO diploma.

Johan Baalbaki - SNF

Failure takes you further

Yet Johan also saw limitations in pursuing a career as a pilot. He often wondered: 'Is this the end of the road?' After high school, he decided to head in a new direction and enrolled in the Business Administration (Management, Economics & Law) program at the Christian University of Applied Sciences in Ede. But his studies were suddenly put in jeopardy when he suffered an eye injury. Perseverance had been instilled in him from an early age, so he continued attending lectures as usual. It was his coach who eventually said: you can’t go on like this. Johan had to take a four-month break to recover.

Looking back now, he sees what a crucial learning moment that was. The experience taught him the importance of striking a balance between rest and focus. “You have to be your own leader first,” he says. Failure is a part of that. “When you fail, you end up going ten steps further.” Strengthened by the lessons learned from his setbacks, Johan is now a proud Nyenrodian.

Part of a community

For Johan, studying at Nyenrode is about more than education. Because students live on campus, academic and social activities are more integrated than at other universities. This makes you part of a community of students and alumni whom you immediately share something with. Johan is therefore looking forward to becoming a mentor to a young Nyenrodian himself someday. “I think education is very important.”

Through Stichting Nyenrode Fonds, he received a scholarship from the Nyenrodians in the class of 1958. These men have been supporting students for over 15 years by offering a scholarship and serving as mentors. “We all have something in common,” Johan says. “I'm setting out on the same journey they once did.”

If you would like to help motivated students like Johan kick-start their careers, consider making a contribution to a scholarship for talented students who do not have enough financial resources to pay for a study program at Nyenrode. To find out more, please contact Stichting Nyenrode Fonds (Nyenrode Fund) for further information on tax-advantaged donation options.