“Amsterdam and Aleppo are not that different: Amsterdam is also a big city with a lot of people and a lot of shops and bars, same as Aleppo!”

By: Veerle Nicolaï

Hi Wessam, where are you from?

I’m from Syria and I arrived in the Netherlands in the summer of 2015. I studied Geology in Aleppo and had the life of a normal student; not too fancy, but I could do all the things I wanted. In 2012 the situation in Aleppo started to be unbearable and me and my brothers would have to fight in the army, so me and my family decided to leave. I spent three years in the mountains of Lebanon, before I could travel to the Netherlands. My father was already there, so I followed him.

How is it to live here right now?

You know, it’s not that different. I mean, Amsterdam is also a city with a lot of people and a lot of shops and cafes; same as Aleppo.

Really? Do you think it’s really similar?

Well, there’s one big difference. When you walk in the streets of Aleppo everyone is greeting each other and will start a conversation with you. In Amsterdam I haven’t had that experience yet, on the contrary! Me and my family are very close, we’ve been trough a lot together. But also if we were just a normal family in Syria: we’d still be very close. And you know what’s really strange? Our neighbour’s daughter never visits her, her own mother! Well, maybe four times a year. But that’s nothing! That’s really not done in Syria.

Is that what you miss the most?

Yes! De gezelligheid! That’s what I miss sometimes in Amsterdam.

So, you make art right? How did you start doing that?

I had to wait almost 2 months before I could take my first Dutch course and I just started drawing; I had to do something. It turned out pretty well and people liked it. So I will continue doing it,  because it’s my passion!

You sound very excited and optimistic, how come?

It’s not good to feel sad. Yes, of course everyone has some bad experiences in his life, but it’s not good to stay in a sad mood for a long time, because it will effect your daily live. Therefore, I  decided to stop thinking about the things that happened to me before I came here. Instead, I focus on my future.

What do you think of Refugees Forward?

Refugees Forward gives the support and the opportunity for every newcomer to improve him or herself and Refugees Forward gives guidance in the right way. During the start-up weekend, I liked the most that every participant (both the students and the newcomers) was trying so hard to do the best they could in helping each other with working on the projects, and all of this within a very friendly atmosphere! It’s like building bridges: I met so many students with different study backgrounds, I learned from them and they learned from me. I’m looking forward to participate in the next project!

Where do you see yourself in a few years?

Hopefully I will be finishing my last year of Geology at the VU, but till that time I will just continue making art! And perhaps, one day, see some friends who are living in countries all over the world right now.

Wessam’s art

Check out more of Wessam’s art and contact him via: https://www.facebook.com/wsm.matouk/