Starting over: from the Middle-East to the Netherlands
Written by: Raghda Saeed during her Work/Language Internship
All that was on my mind during my last year at university in Syria was finishing school and jumping into life. I had so much energy and enthusiasm and was really looking forward to put my dreams and plans into action. To grow the seeds of my education in the real world. Unfortunately, life does not go always as we want.
In December 2013 I lost my beloved mom. I missed her a lot and things start to be harder for me. Also, there was a lot of unrest in Syria. So I decided to leave. I needed to move on. I needed to get out of my comfort zone, out of my cozy bubble.
"Never be afraid of change."
A part of me will always be there with all the people I love. The memory of my mom and her beautiful smell which, whenever I hugged her or kissed her, just used to calm me down. It’s a kind of love that no one in the world can replace. My dad, who’s living in Saudi Arabia, with his sense of humor which he never loses no matter the circumstances. To me, this need a real strength! I also miss my brothers who always support my decisions. Whatever path in life I choose, they believe in me and in my abilities which always remind me of who I am, especially in the difficult times. Also, my beautiful nephews and nieces (image) which are so cute that I could just eat them! And of course my friends, who are always with me and their memories will always live in my heart. Until we meet again.
But this is life, we just need to go for it. That sometimes means letting go of part of it and seeing what happens. Never be afraid of change.
"But when life encourages you to follow your heart, you just have to trust it."
So I picked myself up and left. To be honest I had no idea in the beginning what I was going to do. I mean, l moved with my family before because my dad used to changed jobs a lot so we changed countries. But this time was different, this time I was totally alone. Having no one but myself to rely on! But when life encourages you to follow your heart, you just have to trust it. I believe when you follow your instincts, the universe will put things in order to achieve what your heart wants!
When I left Syria I went back to Saudi Arabia and let me tell you something, if you are thinking of complaining about the weather in The Nederlands, believe me, it’s a blessing! There are times when the temperature in Saudia Arbia reaches 40 degrees or more! It’s like a natural sauna.
After a while I felt it was time to move on and have new experiences. So I went to Istanbul in Turkey, which is such an inspiring place. You can see the mix of Europe and Asia, the mix between east and west, the modern life with a touch of the oriental sophism style. And I can tell you that after a while of living there you will be addicted to tea. There is tea everywhere! Even if you want to buy something from the shop they will offer you a small glass of tea! And the first Turkish food I ate was “Menemen” (egg and tomato and some vegetables), of course with a cup of tea! The year and a half that I had spent in Turkey was stunning and it was definitely a turning point in my life.
Going to Istanbul felt like going into the unkown. But that was just what I needed, it made me understand the feeling of safety and danger, achievement and failure, losing people but also gaining great new friends. And the most important lesson was the feeling of being less attached and more grateful for whatever I have! All this came from the diverse experiences I went through (the nice ones and the weird ones). From the amazing people I met and the different jobs I had! For example, being in a business company behind a desk to being a waitress in a nice café. And from talking all the time with the customers on the phone and answering all their queries to taking backpackers on small tours in Istanbul and introduce them to the nice places to visit. I also worked in a beautiful hostel with a great team, which is owned by a guy from New Zealand. He arrived there as a traveler as well and then decided to invest in the hostel and live in Istanbul!
"The most important lesson was the feeling of being less attached and more grateful for whatever I have!"
When I first arrived in Istanbul I was not really sure what I was going to do. I did not have a plan. And after switching jobs so often, I felt it was time to make a new plan. I decided to follow my heart to build a more stable future and move to the Netherlands.
So, one year ago I arrived in the Netherlands. This was the first time I arrived in a new place with a greater knowledge and awareness of what I want my life to be like and what I want to accomplish. I felt ready to go back to the plans I had before during university and use all the skills that I have or gained in a way that gives me fulfillment and make me a productive person. That’s very important to me!
‘Oliebollen’ and the letter G
The first thing that grabbed my attention was when I first heard people on the street talking and pronouncing the letter (G). In Arabic we pronounce the letter (خ) in exactly the same way. In most counties people cannot pronounce this! It gave me a nice nostalgic feeling, so my first impression here was with a smile! To be honest, my smile was even bigger when I first tasted ‘Oliebollen’, yummi! It was the first Dutch food I ever tried! Now, I’m living in a beautiful small flat with my cute, little, crazy cat Gaya.
Thinking about the future
I started attending a language school 6 months ago. But I couldn’t prevent myself from wondering about my work experience here. What is the working environment like here? What do I have to offer here or what can I do?
"I love every one of them and sometimes they make me feel better even with a simple word or a smile."
I started by talking with my teacher at my language school about having the desire to work or volunteer in order to increase my language and to use my free time in a good way. So, after only one week she came to me with my opportunity here in Netherland. She found me a voluntary job by helping elderly people. All I needed to do was to give them a good time by talking, playing and having a nice meal together. Or simply by having a nice small chat with them while we are walking. I enjoyed it a lot and it really helped me with my language a lot. They were so sweet, so nice and so patient with me while I was trying to talk or express myself in Dutch. I still work with them but only one day a week. I love every one of them and sometimes they make me feel better even with a simple word or a smile.
"I began wondering about having a working career here."
After working there for 5 months I got the feeling that my language skills were getting better and better. I could understand most of the talking around me, especially if it was not fast. I began wondering about having a working career here. I wanted to know, what are the similarities and differences between the working environment here comparing to the work environment in the previous lands that I had worked in?
After a while I got in touch with Astrid. She helped me to get an interview at Decom to get real work experience in the Netherlands. I was really so happy when Danny from Decom called me to say that I had been accepted to do a ‘Werk/Taal Stage’. My excitement was so big, not just because this will be my first working experience in a company in Netherlands or for my language to progress in a faster way, but also because I was really interested about knowing more about the recruitment field.
Of course, after that I start asking those ‘what if’ questions. Like: What if my Dutch was not good enough? What will this experience add to me personally and to my skills? And am I able to also be useful for the company? And of course, what will my colleagues be like?
All kind of these silly questions just started attacking me! It’s a ‘gift’ I have! The ability and creativity to form all kinds of unnecessary questions to attack by brain in moments like that! Well, it’s good that I also have the ability to redirect my mind and start thinking more rational and calm myself down.
“Here we go, let’s see what will happen!”
So it was time for my first workday, a Monday, so you can imagine how my weekend before that was. So much excitement and wondering. I went there and I rang the bell and said to myself: “here we go , let’s see what will happen!”
"Everyone was (and is) very respectful"
To be honest, my first day at Decom Technology People was very nice and left me with more enthusiasm and charged me with positive energy. All my silly worries washed away. Why was that? Well, from the beginning I felt very welcome even though the Dutch dictionary in my mind only contained a little more than the basics and I am far from fluent! But everyone was (and is) very respectful. We had our lunch break together which opened the way to have small chats and getting to know each other more. Some of my colleagues were even interested in Syrian food!
"Believe me, there is much more delicious Arabic food that you should have the pleasure of trying instead of Falafel!"
By the way, forgot about FALAFEL! Believe me, there is much more delicious Arabic food that you should have the pleasure of trying instead of Falafel! You should start with Molokhia or Kibbeh, trust me. But if you are vegetarian, kibbeh will definitely not be your choice!
During my first day I was introduced to the identity, the nature of the job and the vision of the company. Everyone made sure to ask me if I have questions about anything. They told me to never hesitate to ask something and that gave me a lot of comfort.
I was present at the Monday-morning team meeting, which gave me an idea about how the company works. It was a real challenge to understand everything that was being said and I really had to put all my effort into concentrating on understanding all the words. But I really did my best and I think I understood most of it! What I do realize is that it’s much easier to understand Dutch than to speak it myself. It gives me a lot of confidence that I can really understand most of what people are saying, especially with these helpful, encouraging people and the working environment.
"What is better than having a nice drink with lovely people to end your working week and began your weekend?"
And how I end my first working week? Well, it was by going all together to a nice bar next to our company called ‘De Goesting’. What is better than having a nice drink with lovely people to end your working week and began your weekend?
What I have learned from all my experience is that you just need to go for it and follow your heart. That means sometimes letting go of part of it and seeing what happens. Never be afraid of change!