"At STE you are seen as a person"
9 december 2020
In 2011 Mohammed Alkhateeb (24) fled from Syria to Turkey. The violence of war forced him to start a new life there but in the end he could not stay. In 2017, he came to the Netherlands and took his dream of becoming a general practitioner with him. In order to start realising that dream, he had to learn the language first.
How did you end up here?
"I was 15 years old when I fled the war in Syria. I had just finished high school and was ready for college but that was not possible anymore. My diploma was invalid in Turkey so I had to go back to secondary school there. The Turkish diploma I received was also not valid in the Netherlands, so I opted for a pre-Bachelor's at Tilburg University. This is a bridging program which is geared towards refugee students who are looking to enter higher education."
How did you come into contact with STE Languages?
"When I arrived in the Netherlands I had nothing at all. When you are a refugee, a lot happens by chance because you don't know where to go. Refugee work has helped me a lot and suggested that I try STE Languages, which is the best school to learn the language."
Why is it important for you to learn Dutch?
"My ambition is to become a doctor. To do this, I not only have to study medicine but also learn the language. In principle, you can also attend the studies in English but eventually you will need to work with Dutch patients. In order to have good communication with them you have to master the language."
You have attended various group training courses at STE. Can you tell us a bit about your learning experiences?
"I have attended five Dutch group courses. It is a pleasant learning environment because there is a lot of attention placed on you as an individual. You are seen. The groups are small, so there is room to ask questions and work with others. There is a lot of attention spent on speaking but also on other skills, which means you really get to know the language. You don’t only learn how to describe something but to immediately use the correct word. I started from scratch and am now at C1 level."
What are the benefits of language training for your daily life?
"Wherever you go, whether it’s on the train or to the supermarket, speaking the language makes everything easier. The feeling that you are a refugee, a foreigner, diminishes as you start to master the language well."
Do you have any tips for new students?
"Spend time on the language first, then start looking for a job or studies. Even if you start working in English, you will have Dutch colleagues who prefer speaking in Dutch, and as I said, Dutch is also useful to have outside of work."
What is your general impression of STE?
"Very positive. I was more than a student to them, they treated me as a human being. I appreciate the fact that they look at you as a person and that goes beyond just learning the language. For example, I didn’t know that higher education was available to me but my Dutch teacher did and helped me register for pre-Bachelor’s studies."
Where do you think you will be in ten years?
"I hope to have my own GP practice in ten years' time, with my own patients that I can speak with in Dutch. I want that. I also really look forward to continuing with my studies."
Pre-Bachelor’s higher education
Are you perhaps a refugee student and would like to enter higher education? Tilburg University and Fontys have developed a one-year bridging program for this. The pre-Bachelor’s is the ideal preparation program for further study at higher vocational or university level. More information on this can be found on the Tilburg University and Fontys websites.