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

I’d rather say I’m a student than a refugee

foto: Jantine Albers

“Not many people know that Burundi has been in a state of political turmoil since April 2015. Or that half a million Burundi people have now fled the country” (which had a population of just over eight million in 2009, ed.) As a human rights activist, Yves is not safe in Burundi. If defenders of human rights are in danger because of their work, they are eligible to spend three months in one of the Dutch ‘Shelter Cities’ as part of the Justice and Peace Netherlands programme. This is how Yves arrived in The Hague in March 2016. He took a number of courses, intending to return to Burundi three months later. But the situation in the country had deteriorated to the extent that Yves’ safety could not be guaranteed if he returned. He applied for a degree course in the Netherlands instead.

Yves was selected for Incluusion, a programme set up by Utrecht University for students with a refugee background. “Incluusion helped me to integrate into society here. I already had a good basis for a Master’s degree”, says Yves. He had a degree in Political Science and International Relations from Burundi, and is now taking a Master’s in Conflict Studies and Human Rights at Utrecht University. Since he started his course, Yves doesn’t have to say he’s a refugee anymore: he’s simply a student. “People feel awkward talking to refugees; It’s the negative image. I remember not long after I arrived here, I’d been dancing with this girl for a couple of hours. We were having fun. But as soon as I told her I was a refugee, she was gone. Being a refugee isn’t your identity, it’s a situation you’re in. Nobody chooses to be a refugee.”

Yves had no trouble integrating, because he enjoys talking to people and has an easy manner. He´s not just a student, he’s also an active member of the SVO Basketball club, where he plays matches and trains a younger team. He goes to church, plays for a student basketball team on Mondays and spends a lot of time in the Voortuin, TivoliVredenburg, Hofman and EKKO. He’s one of those people who makes friends wherever he goes. His main aim in life is to help people and make them happy, and he certainly manages to make people laugh. Yves hasn’t quite mastered Dutch yet, but he knows enough to call his friends the Dutch equivalent of ‘mate’ and his girlfriends ‘chick’.

Although Yves is doing well in Utrecht, he still misses Burundi. He can’t go back to see his family and friends. “Burundi is a beautiful country, and I miss the food. You can just talk to anyone as if you know them there, and you don’t need to be invited to parties. There’s always a party to go to as someone gets married every week! The weather in Burundi is perfect. Always around twenty degrees and it never drops below sixteen.” Just as Yves says this, the hailstones start to fall outside. He laughs and continues: “I usually go everywhere by bike, you can’t survive in this city without a bike. But in this type of weather… I take the bus.” Unfortunately he’s in a hurry today so it will have to be the bike.

Yves can stay in the Netherlands until 2021, and then he’ll have to consider his options. “If the situation in Burundi has improved, I’ll go back. If not, I’ll look for a job, perhaps with an international organisation.” In the meantime, he’ll continue to do all he can for his country.

Name: Yves-Faustin Nahimana
Year of birth: 4 June, 1989
Place of birth: Bujumbura, Burundi
Motto: ‘I want to help people and if I can’t, I want to make them happy’

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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