How did you learn about IBS?
I heard about it from a former IBS student in Saudi Arabia who said it was a really good school. She was International Relations major and graduated here last year. She came to Hungary in 2011 and I came a year later.
So, actually where are you from?
I am originally from Egypt but I live in Saudi Arabia, our family has business in Saudi Arabia that is why we live there. My mother is in charge of the financial management of the company, and my father is in charge of the management part. This set-up, to share family and business, has its advantages and sometimes its difficulties. So later when it comes to my career, I would like to set up my own business. My parents have always encouraged me to do my own things.
Why did you decide to come to study here instead of your country where I guess you also had several options?
I had friends here, which was an important factor and I also liked the idea of a British diploma. Back home we had to choose a curriculum relatively early, already in high school, from among the British, the American or national schools, and I had already been in the British system as I chose the IGCSE Cambridge curriculum. I wanted to continue with that so this was another motivation in my choice to come here.
How did the actual process of enrolment to IBS go?
There was a representative of IBS working in Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. Luckily, it happened to be my friend’s uncle, so he helped me out lot. It was, I have to say, one of the easiest and most flexible procedure I have been through. IBS provided me with everything I needed for the embassy.
Where do you live in Budapest?
I live downtown, near Western Railway Station. It is really a good location. In the first two years, I stayed in the school dormitory, then I tried to rent a place together with some other students, but I prefer the present situation, to rent a place and to live on my own.
You have been here for four years. What changes do you see?
I have the impression that the country is more developed and IBS has moved to a new location, which is also much more appropriate. Of course, we students have developed too, four years is not a short time.
How was your placement experience?
After working three months in a company in Cairo I moved here to continue my placement. I worked as a marketing assistant in a company but I was not really happy with it, so I reported it to the school and then I was lucky to find an intern job at IBM. I was in the accounting department, which surprised me a bit as my major is business administration. But I did not mind it at all, and I learnt a lot. It was also good because accounting as a subject to study is not my favourite, however, working with it is completely different and very interesting. I actually like it.
What is the biggest cultural difference to your mind?
Acceptance. I tend to go for friends who understand me and can share things with me. I am open and got used to viewing things differently after almost 4 years. And this is the best part of it. It is brave and courageous especially for girls to come and study abroad due to the difficulties of living in a completely “new” place.
In your country, either in Saudi Arabia or in Egypt, is it a general phenomenon that women are really involved in business?
Well, to be honest, the western way of looking at women who come from our part of the world is rather negative and stereotypical. Actually, even though in Saudi Arabia I studied in an international school, when I came here for a while I could feel being different, which I had never felt before. In the first six months it was quite hard. People looked at me differently. I cover my hair because I decided to do so, and therefore I look different. It is my way and my choice and nothing else. But earlier I had not realized that people might look at your own choice in a different way. I just had to deal with it myself and I think I could manage it, and the students here are also amazing and supporting.
Do you already know what the topic of your final thesis paper will be?
Yes, female entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia. I am covering the GCC Gulf region mainly. I want to write about women, and show that in that part of the world they still have rights and possibilities, even though they have to face obstacles and difficulties. I also would like to work against prejudices in connection with my region and the role of women there, and highlight the changes that happened. When I look at countries like Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, women had the right to vote from the 1950’s. It is completely different in Saudi Arabia, where it happened lately and dramatically. I believe changes began when women were able to have scholarships to study abroad, which happened approximately in 2007. I have to say that even though the world’s view on this country is only about “how women are not capable of driving”, there’s another part of it, unfortunately not seen by the media.
There are a lot of women entrepreneurs in all the Arab countries. In Egypt there is a girl who was only 17 years old when she launched her own business in fashion and she is still successful. There are a lot of things that need to be clarified to the western culture in regard to this topic.
What are your plans?
I think a bachelor’s degree nowadays is not enough, there is a big competition in companies. So, I would like to continue my studies at MA level. I will most probably go for the MSc here at IBS. The idea is really attractive that I can study for a UK degree in one year. After four years, one can be a bit more considerate whether to start longer MA studies, so this one year fits me perfectly well. Later? First, I would like to get a good job, probably in HR. I am going to save money and start my own business.