Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.

I’m scared to bike in the city, so I walk everywhere

foto: Jantine Albers

In her home country, Yasmeen took a sabbatical to follow an MBA at Nyenrode Business University. She intended to go back to Jordan afterwards but now, four-and-a-half years after the course began, she’s still here in the Netherlands. Not because she didn’t want to return to Jordan; on the contrary. “I was happy in Jordan, but so much happened during the year I spent studying at Nyenrode. I listened to so many entrepreneurs, professors and businessmen that I became inspired to try new things instead of going back to my old office job. I made friends from all around the world at Nyenrode and they became my family. They lived on the campus, so we were always quite close. It sometimes felt like being at school again: people had rows, we gossiped and got our wires crossed. But it was a great time in which we laughed, learned a lot and formed solid friendships”, says Yasmeen. She smiles: “Life on the campus was like a fairy tale. We often joked to each other: what will it be like when have to live in the real world again?”

After graduating, Yasmeen found a job at Danone and moved to Amsterdam. Then she found another job in Nijmegen and moved there. Yasmeen: “I found it quite boring there. All my friends lived in Utrecht or Amsterdam, so I decided to move to Utrecht.” It turned out to be a good decision. “I knew the city from my time living in Breukelen. There are loads of great places to go and the city itself is central.”

Yasmeen keeps herself busy outside her work with a pharmaceutical company. She is involved in two start-ups, for example: one focuses on the social and sharing economy, and the other revolves around travel and education. She also writes up interviews on a voluntary basis for the ‘Women to Watch’ platform and for ‘Start-ups without borders’. The first focuses on inspirational women and the second on entrepreneurial refugees. Interviewing suits Yasmeen. “I enjoy writing and helping people; meeting people inspires me.” Yasmeen would like to take another degree, this time in journalism or writing perhaps. And she’s keen to write a book. “Perhaps a fictional love story, with a twist!” She has also discovered her inner actress. “I just love acting. I recently noticed that I had smiled all the way my acting class.”

How different would her life have been if she’d stayed in Jordan? “The main difference would be that I would still live with my parents. You only leave home in Jordan if you get married. But I wouldn’t have minded.” Yasmeen has always done as she wants, even when she lived in Jordan. “I travelled a lot, learned about other cultures.” So her life might not have been so very different if she´d stayed in Jordan. Yasmeen: “I started both start-ups there, and I do the interviews thanks to contacts I made before I came to the Netherlands.”

But there’s one thing Yasmeen cannot get used to: cycling. “I did bike when I was in Breukelen, but I don’t bike in the city. I’m too scared. In good weather, I walk from A to B, and otherwise I take the bus. You can’t walk or bike in the cities in Jordan. They’re not built for it.”

Name: Yasmeen Smadi
Country: Jordan
Country of birth: Kuwait
Date of birth: 9 April 1985
Motto: ‘We need to be less self-centred and kinder to each other, compete with ourselves rather than each other, learn to live together and respect our differences without judgement or any form of discrimination.’

Allemaal Utrechters is a series of interviews with people who moved to Utrecht from another country. We ask them about their background and their impression of Utrecht, revealing the true diversity of our city. The ‘Allemaal Utrechters’ series is a collaboration between DUIC and Culturele Zondagen, and has been made possible with help from Stichting Dialoog and the Municipality of Utrecht. We hope to showcase every nationality in Utrecht.

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