My mother’s biggest dream

My whole plan was ruined. That felt truly awful,’ says Elyas Razawi, BSc in Business Administration student at Nyenrode. As a refugee from Afghanistan, he developed into a talented and ambitious student in the Netherlands at a young age. ‘If I have a goal, then I work as hard as I can to achieve it,’ he explains. ‘It’s all about my own efforts, not external factors.’ But Elyas never expected that an external factor would lead him to doubt his goal of becoming a dentist. What brought him to Nyenrode?

‘My mother really wanted me to go to university and choose a safe, easy life, precisely because we didn’t come from those circumstances. It’s not always easy being a refugee in another country,’ Elyas says. When he was a baby, his mother took him and fled from Afghanistan to the Netherlands. Though he didn’t get much out of the journey itself, it nevertheless set the tone for the future course of his life. He became a smart, ambitious young man with a need to visibly prove himself. ‘When I was little, I was determined to be the smartest one in the class.’

‘My mother’s biggest dream was for me to go to university.’
Elyas Razawi

Elyas was therefore immediately excited when a teacher from the IMC Weekend School gave a presentation at his school. ‘The aim of the IMC Weekend School is to ensure that underprivileged children aged 10 to 14 have the chance to build a network, too,’ Elyas explains. He applied to the school and was selected to take part in the 2.5-year long program. Soon afterwards, he was asked to become an ambassador. ‘For the ambassador training, I attended a few weekend sessions over the course of a year to learn about storytelling, communication, teamwork and project management. We also got to visit the American embassy in The Hague.’

Eventually, Elyas came to Nyenrode to pitch an idea to ambassadors of the IMC Weekend School. One of them was Heleen van Hall, Nyenrode’s Head of Alumni & External Relations. Heleen was impressed by his pitch and said that she saw a lot of potential in him. She thought that Elyas could achieve more if he went in a different direction, with more of a focus on entrepreneurship. ‘I get a rush out of giving presentations,’ Elyas says. ‘It doesn’t matter what kind. After Heleen approached me, I couldn’t get it out of my head. All the work I had done for the Weekend School revolved around that as well.’

Elyas realized at the time that he mainly wanted to be a self-employed dentist. ‘My own practice. My own business. The rest was less interesting to me,’ Elyas explains. ‘After that, I noticed that I was starting to lose my interest in dentistry even more.’

‘I get a rush out of giving presentations’
Elyas Razawi

Personal attention at Nyenrode

The plan to become a dentist had fallen apart, and it took Elyas a while to regroup. His mother wasn’t thrilled with the decision right away either. ‘You’ve mapped everything out so nicely, she said, and there’s no certainty as an entrepreneur,’ Elyas recalls. ‘The personal attention and the network really appealed to me. Nyenrode reminded me of the Weekend School,’ Elyas says. ‘I didn’t care how, but I knew I was going to Nyenrode.’ Through hard work, he was chosen as one of the winners of a Business Game and received a tuition discount from Nyenrode, but even then he was still unable to afford the costs of the program.

With the support of the IMC Weekend School, Elyas began searching for funding to afford an education at Nyenrode. The Oukha foundation eventually made a financial contribution. For the remaining amount, Heleen referred him to Stichting Nyenrode Fonds. After an interview with alumni from the BBA class of 1976, Elyas was awarded a scholarship. The scholarships offered by the fund are ‘revolving’ in nature, which means that after the recipient completes his or her studies, he or she will in turn make a new scholarship possible for a future student.

Elyas was prepared to pursue his Bachelor’s degree with a large DUO loan, a side job and – most importantly – a very minimalist lifestyle, but he was in for one more surprise. Unbeknownst to him, Stichting Nyenrode Fonds and the IMC Weekend School had gotten IMC Financial Markets to award an additional amount. ‘I have been given so much,’ Elyas says with gratitude. ‘There are so many people who have selflessly helped me. Without them, I wouldn’t be here now. I think this is one of my greatest achievements. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve managed to come study here at such a young age, and that motivates me to keep going.’