Soukaina studied business in Morocco, her home country, and graduated in 2009.
“For four years I worked as a strategy and management consultant in Morocco,” Soukaina explained. “So I had been travelling around to many different countries and working on different projects.”
But one project wasn’t quite like the others. Soukaina received an assignment to work with the Moroccan Ministry of Youth, assessing the situation of young people and recommending strategies for 2020.
“During that project I discovered how young Moroccans were in a very vulnerable situation, and needed help,” Soukaina said. “The job market isn’t big enough to handle all of the young people.”
One of the solutions which Soukaina’s company suggested be implemented was for more people to start their own companies. But entrepreneurship isn’t particularly popular in Morocco yet – a mindset which Soukaina is determined to change.
“At that point I thought, ‘I need to do something’. But my training wasn’t enough, I didn’t have the right tools.”
Soukaina decided to further her education, and when she started looking for programmes, one truly stood out: the Master's programme in Strategic Entrepreneurship at Jönköping International Business School.
“It was natural for me to apply,” Soukaina said. “Sweden is one of the best places to be for innovation, development, and entrepreneurship.”
So Soukaina applied for the programme and the SI Scholarship – which changed her life.
“My first impression of Sweden was that everything was very relaxed,” she said. “In Morocco I lived in a big cosmopolitan city. Here everyone takes their time, and even Stockholm, which the Swedes think is a big city, is so much more relaxed.”
Of course, going from Morocco to Sweden had its challenges as well.
“The month of November was the hardest part,” Soukaina recalled. “It was very dark so early, and we had so much work in school too. The darkness was terrible. But in December, with the Santa Lucia holiday, everything gets better.”
At first it was also a challenge to make friends, Soukaina said.
“Swedes are very friendly and helpful, and yet it’s hard to really make friends with them,” she said. “I think that Swedish people are introverted. Or maybe I am too extroverted,” Soukaina laughed.
But eventually Soukaina adjusted to Swedish culture, and learned to take part of it with her.
“The most important thing I learned is just to listen,” she said. “In Moroccan culture people are quiete talkative, and if you don’t get interrupted then it means people don’t understand what you’re talking about – so you repeat it.”
The culture clash created a few awkward scenarios, of course.
“When I first I arrived I just kept talking and talking, and no one would ever interrupt me, even if I said the same thing ten times. They’re just so respectful. And then I reflected on this and I realized, ‘I’m wrong. I am missing so much.’ Other people also have interesting things to say, and I can learn so much just by listening.”
After completing her programme in Sweden, Soukaina went on to additional studies in Berkley, California – but she said she still misses Sweden.
“Oh, I do miss it,” she remarked. “I want to reconnect with Sweden. It was so wonderful. It was so easy to go everywhere. The public transportation was great. And it’s so much easier to be active. If you want to do sports you can just walk outside. Here, you need to take your car ten miles to a gym.”
Soukaina said it was difficult to choose the best part of her experience in Sweden, but that the day she received the Global Swede award was definitely a highlight.
“I had no idea! At my school you don’t apply for the award and nobody talks about it beforehand. It was a very rewarding day.”
As for current SI students studying in Sweden, Soukaina said it’s important to learn Swedish.
“I was so busy with school that I didn’t try to learn Swedish for a long time,” she said. “But it is important. Try to learn Swedish and try to get closer to the Swedish people. Just get closer to Sweden in general – there are only benefits to it.”