Many refugees in the Netherlands received a high-quality education in their countries of origin. Oftentimes they also had a good job or even ran their own company. But war forced them to leave their homes and countries behind to start anew in a completely foreign place. In this new environment, their work experience is often undervalued and their educational qualifications are not always recognized. Moreover, most refugees do not speak the language and are unfamiliar with how certain things are done. Mohammad Alkhen from Syria was one of them. With sponsorship from the university, he was able to pursue the Full-time MBA program at Nyenrode.
Mohammad is a talented, driven entrepreneur who has just graduated from the Full-time MBA program at Nyenrode in Amsterdam: a milestone in his career in the Netherlands. His graduating class consists of around 40 students who have come to know each other very well. In addition to the knowledge gained during the program, this network is extremely valuable to an entrepreneur like Mohammad. “I miss them already,” he says, flashing an exuberant smile. His perseverance and unfailing optimism are what defines him. These qualities are also the reason he has achieved so much, because the journey has not been easy by any means.
Mohammad was forced to leave Syria seven years ago due to the terrible civil war, and he had just three days to find asylum in another country. Luckily, a friend of his was leaving to Malaysia to follow an MBA program there, so Mohammad joined him and applied for the same program as well. He was not accepted, unfortunately, but he did have a place to stay. He decided to give Arabic lessons while searching for a job. Thankfully he was soon hired by a Syrian import company, which gave him some sense of connection to the country where he had enjoyed such a happy life just a short time before.
He has now been living in the Netherlands for four years. At first, the international character of Amsterdam offered the advantage that he could get along just fine in English, but it’s not quite as easy to connect with people if you don’t speak Dutch. “You really need to be introduced,” Mohammad says. “Otherwise you’ll be left out. Everyone is so busy here.” Instead of giving up, he attended a Dutch language course and was able to reach a good level of understanding within a year.
Mohammad is an incredibly motivated entrepreneur and prioritizes his continued personal development. He therefore took an intensive course in entrepreneurship at Delitelab, where he made such an impression that the staff asked him to join as a volunteer to help young entrepreneurs turn their dreams into a reality. This was a great first step to building a network here.
Mohammad discovered Nyenrode while preparing to enroll in a Master’s program at the University of Amsterdam. He discussed Nyenrode Amsterdam and the business game with a friend. “You work together in groups for three intensive days to solve a problem for a company,” says Mohammad. The reward? A scholarship. He didn’t quite reach that prize, but he was still invited to come in for an interview. Based on that interview and a subsequent test, the university decided to help Mohammad cover the costs of his studies at Nyenrode.
Mohammad learned a great deal and met many people during his time studying at Nyenrode. Now, with his diploma in hand, he is determined to start another new company. “I’d give it four or five months,” he says. “Six at most!” Although he has plenty of experience as an entrepreneur, that doesn't guarantee success for his new start-up. “Sometimes you run into circumstances that you can’t control.” Nevertheless, he’s giving it all he’s got. Mohammad quotes the saying: “If you’ve got a plan B, plan A will never work.”
If you would like to help motivated students like Mohammad 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 for further information on tax-advantaged donation options.