“My dreams are all coming true,” SI alumni Amr Magdi tells SI News from his new home in New York.
Amr has scored a position to a job with Human Rights Watch in the city – “a job that really fits with my dreams” – but it hasn’t been an easy journey.
Back in 2010, Amr was offered a university doctor position back home in Egypt.
“It should have been the greatest news ever,” Amr recalls. “But I wasn’t happy. I didn’t want to work as a doctor.”
He didn’t take the position, and when the revolution began in Egypt in 2011 Amr was in Tahrir Square. He saw the country changing before his eyes, and still didn’t know what to do. A few days later he was inducted to mandatory service in the army.
Revolution in Egypt in 2011.
“It was a huge frustration,” Amr says. “I wanted to be out there on the streets with my friends.”
After a year in the Egyptian army facing the revolution, Amr decided what he wanted to do – at least step one.
“I worked hard to find my own path, and decided that I wanted to study abroad and get a quality education,” Amr explains.
Although Amr had already heard of the Swedish Institute through the SI youth exchange, Sweden was not an obvious choice for him. But when friends recommended the Middle Eastern Studies Centre at Lund University, he was hooked.
“I googled more about the university and Sweden, and what I read was so encouraging,” Amr says.
He was accepted into the programme on a scholarship from SI – which changed the course of his life.
“I am grateful for the Swedish Institute, and Sweden, for all that I learned and all that I became, and will become, later in life,” Amr remarks.
"Living in Sweden taught me a lot about different cultures, and I also got to travel and meet people from many different cultures.”
His first impressions of Sweden were very positive, seeing it as a clean and green country full of friendly people.
Of course, there were adjustments to be made. Having come from an Eastern culture, Amr was not accustomed to independence, he says.
“In our culture, young people are not usually independent until they get married,” he tells SI News. “I learned to cook for myself, wash my dishes, and manage my financial life. These things may seem basic in Western Culture, but not for us.”
Another obstacle was the language.
“People can be quite shy while interacting with foreigners, and that could be due to the language barrier,” Amr says.
“I really do encourage SI to run a parallel programme for Swedish language courses, because going through the SFI programme is quite bureaucratic, and you end up waiting in a long queue.”
Still, it was a priceless experience. From then on, Amr was launched on an international trajectory which has taken him across oceans multiple times.
Not only did he study his programme of choice at prestigious Lund University, he also got the experience to live in London for three months while doing an internship there.
“It was quite the experience, living in a different country and comparing a welfare state with a social democratic system, seeing the pros and cons of each of them,” he says.
Not one to sit idle, as he neared graduation, Amr applied for a researcher position with Human Rights Watch in New York.
“In the month of my graduation, I was one of five to get an interview, out of 1,000 applicants,” he explains. “And I was selected.”
New York City.
But Amr says his journey is far from over.
“I believe each and every one of us can make a difference in this world,” he says. “I am still dreaming for my country to make its own way through, and for my people to realize their dreams. And for my daughter-to-be to have a good free education in her home country, without the need to travel.”
This dream, too, will one day come true, he says.
“No nation is perfect and no country is problem-free. European countries were not more gifted than any other country; they just started their struggle many years earlier. It is the duty of each of us to work for a better world.”
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