As part of our inspirational story series about our Youth Goodwill Ambassadors, our next story covers the life of Nada Alkis, a 27-year-old woman from the Syrian capital of Damascus. Although her story is filled with hard challenges and experiences, Nada stands out as a positive and inspiring person.
Nada is someone who has always stoically sought out new opportunities, people and prospects, and is now proactively seeking to make her career in Denmark. In less than three years, shehas managed to get enrolled at UCPH, finish her MSc in pharmaceutical sciences, write her thesis with Novo Nordisk, get involved into the YGA program, learn Danish and improve her English. However, all of this did not just happen - it has required a very strong character, with ample passion and determination. Her story begins back when she was studying in Damascus.
Ordinary life in Damascus
Nada used to live a regular life like most of us. She had everything: a good education, high living standards, close family and friends.Â Her grandfather had even built a three-floor house where all the family lived under one roof: siblings, uncles, cousins and even grandparents. Shopping, travel, and even the occasional restaurant visit were all activities they would do together. However, after the civil war broke out, the whole family made the hard decision to move to Istanbul in Turkey.
Returning to Damascus: A city changed by war
Nada explained that it was difficult to get a credit transfer for her studies in Turkey, as well as getting a job as a pharmacist. So after a year in Istanbul she decided to go back to Syria and finish the last 6 months of her education. Nada mentioned that it was a particularly difficult time for her, as she had to return to the country alone, and there was only one aunt left who was living in the city. When she finally arrived back, it was no home anymore; the city was changed, and people were struggling amidst the war:
"The conflict started far away from my place before we moved out so we didn't feel it at that time, but when I came back it was completely changed.The army was everywhere with guns, you could get lost and don't know where you were. My university was also in the middle of the conflict so they moved the courses to the inner city".
Falling in love
Nada needed help getting around the city so her aunt introduced her to a family friend. He was helping her with everything: going to the grocery stores, leading her home after she was done at university and many other activities. It was in the midst of this terrible conflict, and all the unpleasant emotions that filled her - grief, fear, and sadness- she still found love.
New beginnings, people and Denmark
Nada and her husband took to researching the countries where they could make a career within their professions. Denmark was one of the choices because there were potential jobs in the Life Science area. Yasin, her husband, also had a cousin already living in Denmark, which was a very important factor when considering moving to a foreign country.
Upon arrival in Denmark, Nada applied for the Greater Copenhagen Mentor program. Having been accepted onto the program, it was then possible for her to learn a lot about Danish working culture and traditions. However, as a newcomer she didn't feel that it was enough: she was hungry for more. Therefore, she applied for the Youth Goodwill Ambassador program 2017 intake.The YGA program is full of courses, events and career themed opportunities for young bright international minds in Denmark. The cultural intelligence seminar was one of the most valuable, according to Nada. The event was directed for YGAs to learn the necessary skills to be able to relate and work across cultures
"When I came here there were so many things that I did not know about Denmark and its culture, work environment etc. For example, I have learned that in Denmark you cannot say good morning after 10:00 A.M. For us it is different- I can still say good morning at 12:00 P.M but here it is not a good sign. If your manager says that to you - it means you're late. They are trivial things but you need to know them. Sometimes you may face difficulties and you won't know why."
Alongside the program, Nada is also excited about being a part of the YGA network itself. As part of this network, she receives weekly newsletters with job opportunities, upcoming conferences and other workshops, where she is then able to meet companies and further explore her career opportunities. In addition, she can expand her network even more with the other students and international people she meets at the events. They follow each other on LinkedIn and help one another both in everyday life and professionally in Denmark.
Luck lies in arduous work and the right attitude
When you listen to Nada, you get the impression of a very inspiring and determined person, full of positivity, stoic attitude and passion for life:
"I am a proactive person by nature, and it just so happened that Danes like proactiveness. Sometimes just a small talk helps to break the ice and meet interesting people. Ask them what are they doing, what is the area that they are specializing in- these questions are important to establish any sort of contact. Just go and ask. I like this mentality. I like to be proactive but I also like when people understand it in a positive way".
Besides all that, she is very open and ambitious to learn about the Danish culture, way of working and thinking:
"I am here alone. My family is in Turkey. My husband and I should make a life here, we can't just sit here at home and passively wait for everything. People can offer opportunities for you but it is your responsibility to work hard, to contact them to take those opportunities"
When asked what she could tell other people trying to make a life in Denmark. She listed 6 principles:
"I still like some things about my own culture. We are very emotional. Being in Denmark doesn't mean that you must change your personality. They don't need a new Dane- they want who you are- the real you".
Changing the mindset
"To change the mind is very hard work. You need to believe in this change to continue to change".
Know the rules well
"The rules and standards in Denmark might be different from other countries. Be careful and ask about the rules to ease your daily life and your relations with Danes in work and in everyday life.".
There are no mistakes, only lessons
"Many other cultures consider making a mistake a taboo that you must hide! This is far from the Danish culture. Be honest and feel confident even if you made a mistake. The focus is how to solve the problem and what you have learned from it. This, as well as transparency is a key when you work with Danes".
"If you like equality at work, then working in Denmark is the right place.".
Build your own case
"You might come from a country where the focus is on others. In Denmark, the only focus is on yourself. You don't need to be a manager to make a difference, anyone from all kinds of diverse backgrounds can make a difference. Focus on how to make your own story that is in harmony with other inspiring stories, but make this story yours".