Meet Nisreen Mehho, from Syria at Rotterdam School of Management

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Nisreen Mehho and her husband left Syria for the UK and obtained a Masters in Change Management from the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University.

Last name: Nisreen Mehho

Place of birth: Aleppo, Syria

Place of residence: Haarlem, the Netherlands

Fun fact about yourself: I exercise to eat what I want

Business School Program: Change Management, RSM

Can you tell us a bit about your life and career before you study a business degree?

Before studying at Erasmus, I studied Dutch and English to continue my studies and volunteered in a refugee support organization Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland (VWN). I also became the mother of a child who is now four and a half years old.

Can you tell us about your decision to seek refuge and relocate, and the journey that involved? What did you find most difficult about arriving in a whole new country?

In 2009, I graduated from the University of Aleppo then I worked for three years at the United Nations as an advisor in the field of microfinance for women’s projects. In 2011, the revolution started against the dictatorial regime of Assad, so I had to move to my village. There, I married my current husband because I wanted to be with the one I love in this war. But we didn’t want to have children in an atmosphere of violence and murder. After having despaired of finding a peaceful solution to build a civil society and a decent life, we decided to go to the Netherlands. I arrived in the Netherlands in 2014 and then started my second tough trip to face the hardships and challenges of living in a new country. The big challenge was the language of the country and how to express myself in a society that doesn’t know much about my culture other than a few stereotypical images and stigmas. In addition, I suffered a lot from nostalgia for my days in my country and with my family. It was difficult to translate my feelings as an asylum seeker, even though we as human beings express our feelings in the same way. We all cry when we are sad and laugh when we are happy, but my feelings were postponed because of my concern to fit into a new society and understand life in this country. Other challenges were related to finding a job at the level of my university degree. Finding a job in the Netherlands has been one of the most difficult things I have encountered, and I think it is one of the main reasons I took a master’s degree in university. Also, making new friendships in a new country was very difficult, especially after losing most of my friends. During the first years of the war, some of them were arrested by the Syrian authorities, and some of them fled to other countries and some of them died. As a newcomer and survivor of the war, it was not easy to form friendly relations with people even from my home country.

Why did you decide to apply to RSM?

I chose the Erasmus program because I found it suitable for my language skills after the UAF (FOUNDATION FOR REFUGEE STUDENTS) appointed me to this program. I found it to be a short program that I could follow alongside my private life as a wife and mother, finding a balanced project with my husband. Because my Syrian certificate is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in the Dutch education system, I could start studying at a Dutch university without taking a bachelor’s course. It was also, as I mentioned above, the shortest way to find a job and quickly integrate into society.

How was your experience and what did you find the most difficult?

It was a precious experience and brought great changes in my life thanks to UAF and Erasmus University for giving me the opportunity to build a good future here. The experience was also new, as the education system differs from the education systems in the Middle East. For example, teamwork, I had never experienced it, and through my Erasmus experience, this skill has developed a lot. Thanks to my Change Management Specialist, I also learned a lot about implementing positive personal changes in my life and the life of my family. My study has helped me turn difficulties into opportunities for personal development.

Tell us about your life and career after graduation?

After obtaining my master’s degree, I started at UWV as an intern / policy advisor (beleidsadviseur) in the field of corporate social responsibility. It is an amazing experience from which I am continually learning new things.

What skills have you used from the program in your career?

I have not yet had the opportunity to use my scientific knowledge in my work, but in the coming period I will be directing my efforts towards a profession through which I can use my scientific and personal experience.

What advice would you give to other refugees who wish to leave their country and are considering studying at a business school?

Take good care of yourself, because life always has difficulties, and take a positive look at those difficulties which can bring you many opportunities to be in a better place. Studying at a Dutch university is a challenge for yourself in the first place, but it is an exceptional chance to develop your skills, integrate and learn new things that will help you find your way in the Netherlands. . Don’t say ‘I can’t do it’, instead say ‘I can do it and I will make it happen’ because I deserve a better life ‘.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

First of all, I want to enjoy my life with my family after two years of hard work. I have a lot of dreams like getting a PhD, and who knows maybe I’m starting my own project to help other people make their lives better for the better.

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