During his studies the Syrian specialised in transfer pricing, the way different arms of a multinational company mutually adjust prices. This subject matter is very international in character and is primarily a common activity among accountancy firms such as Deloitte & Touche, EY and PwC.

Haidar tried arranging an internship on his own. He attended an informal dinner where candidates could get acquainted with the firms and speak with their representatives. “That went pretty well and I was one of the last candidates for an internship position with Deloitte, but I didn’t make the final cut.”

Reflecting on why he missed out on the internship, Haidar doesn’t consider factors such as a lack of understanding or discrimination. “I’ve never encountered that. It’s simply more difficult for people who come from countries where there is less expertise in your profession. Compared to the Netherlands, the level of the market is lower in Syria. The problem isn’t the fact you’re a refugee, your qualifications just don’t always match. Sure, you can explain the gap in your CV. While your background as a refugee says a lot about your personality and ability to persevere, it’s still tough getting your foot in the door.”

Free suit

The Foundation for Refugee students (UAF) brought Haidar into contact with the Rotterdam chapter of AISEC. “I had a really good meeting with two AISEC students, Charlotte Tossings and Isabelle Kolen (see photo, ed.), and through them I was able to get a spot on PWC’s transfer pricing team. AISEC gave me the opportunity to take the first step in my career”, says Haidar. The organisation contacted PWC and also arranged a business suit for him with help from Suit Supply. I’m very grateful for that, even though the suit doesn’t really fit anymore because I’ve lost 13 kilos” says Haidar with a laugh.


More about the refugee shelter on campus

Students welcome refugees on campus

Students set off for the emergency shelter to welcome refugees.

Nienke van der Veldt was there when the idea to help refugees obtain internships was conceived. “I was an AISEC committee member in 2015 and that was the year that refugees were housed for a week in the sport centre here. Our office was right next door. By coincidence, in the same week we held a large-scale meeting. There we were, 25 of us right next to the place where all the refugees were staying. We felt we had to contribute in some way. Sending Dutch students abroad for internships and helping students from abroad do the same here was already one of AIESEC’s core activities, so this idea fit seamlessly with our activities.”

Six refugees

Fellow committee member Jeroen van der Leeuw adds: “The project was ready to start in April 2017 and this past summer we were able to place our first asylum permit holder with our partner PWC.” AIESEC has helped six asylum residence permit holders find internships: four Syrians, a Somali, and an Afghan. “I think that’s a great achievement.”

It’s hard for asylum residence permit holders to find work. They’ve already had to deal with fleeing their home country, and then there’s the whole asylum process, and integrating into a new culture, Van der Leeuw explains. “After all that they’re at least 27 to 30 years old by the time they come to us. Then there’s a massive gap in their CVs and let’s not forget that they also have to compete with 200 EUR students. Their situation is far from easy,” says Van der Leeuw.

Much less of a pecking order

Haidar is currently enjoying his internship at PwC. At least half of his team is from abroad. In the beginning I tried speaking Dutch, but I’ve given up on that,” he laughs. He enjoys working in the team. “There is much less of a pecking order here compared to Syria. There, you couldn’t just question your boss’s decisions, but here, as an intern, you find yourself sitting in the same room as a director.”