The Syrian and Chinese culture have more in common than I thought!
Let’s start with the basics:
If you had to eat one thing for every meal going forward, what would you eat?
Chinese noodles, without a doubt! Preferably with meat and vegetables. Having survived off of lamb soup almost for 3 years in high school goes to show I don’t get bored of it very quickly.
You’re standing at Schiphol, bags packed, limitless budget, where do you go?
New York! I perceive the United States as the world’s most developed country. As China is developing very fast, I think shaping my understanding of the US is crucial. I’m curious whether it lives up to my expectations.
What’s your dream job?
Consultancy with a social purpose. I always aim to do the things I like. I believe working hard for the things I want is essential.
What is your most-used emoji?
If you were a fairy and could give one talent to a child, what would it be?
Staying healthy forever. It’s the most important thing in life.
Ok and now for the serious part of the interview:
Could you tell me a bit about your background and what you are working on at Refugees Forward?
I’m from a small city in China. I moved to Amsterdam after being accepted into the business administration program at UvA, where I recently completed my first year. When hearing about Refugees Forward, I remember thinking it was an incredible initiative. After participating in the startup weekend, I was convinced; I decided to join the incubation program. I am currently working with Mohamed Alassar on setting up his house renovation company. It’s my mission to see AskPro succeed. Alassar had his own construction company in Syria, so he has a lot of experience in the industry. AskPro differentiates itself here, in the Netherlands, because it hopes to employ refugees exclusively, contributing to the integration of newcomers into Dutch society!
What motivates you in life?
After finishing my elementary studies, I won a scholarship to start high school in Singapore. That is an opportunity I am very thankful for. Coming from a small city did not grant me access to world-level education. My experience in Singapore motivated me to understand my privilege and use it to give back to society. Back in China I completed projects to help children and elders in poverty. Here in the Netherlands, I have been exposed to issues associated with forced migration and integration. Since there are close to zero refugees in China and Singapore, I hadn’t been introduced to the complexities of this issue before. I really respect their courage, coming to a completely new environment and starting over. It means a lot to me, trying to play a role in helping them successfully integrate. Maybe that is my motivation in life; to help others.
What did you learn from the people involved in this program?
I learned a lot from Alassar, the entrepreneur I’m working with. He has shared many insights with me. He gave me a taste of what it is like to do business in the Middle East. I also tasted his falafel – it was amazing. He introduced me to his culture and I realised that the Syrian and Chinese culture have more in common than I thought! From how they deal with the government to their customers; it was surprising to recognise certain behaviours from what I’m used to at home. I am truly inspired by his determination to make a good life for himself here in the Netherlands. In that sense, I would say I learned something from everyone in the program.
Do you have any key figures in life that inspired or deeply influenced you?
I would say I am my own role model, as I’m a pretty confident person. I know what I want, I believe in myself and that leads me to living my best life. That wouldn’t be possible without my mother however. She always encouraged me to look at all of my option, to weigh the costs and benefits, to make my own decisions. Giving me this control over my own life, rather than pushing me down a certain path, has given me my confidence. I try applying the same theory when I work in teams. I always give people the opportunity to weigh their options, because in the end it’s their decision to make.
Why did you join RF?
Again, I think it’s a very promising organisation. After having just started a year ago, it already has several participants with registered companies and some are receiving investments. The team, however, truly encouraged me to join, it really is a lovely community to work with.
If you picture your perfect future in 5 years from now, what does it look like?
I am back in China working on helping farmers in rural areas create their own businesses. Although the purchasing power is relatively low there, farmers’ products are very authentic, and the market is huge – there are 500 million people living in rural areas! I want to educate them, I believe this can be the agent that allows them to lift themselves out of poverty.