“I want to know why”
Three international students talk about their experiences and their dreams for the future
Voor de verandering een keer een artikel in het Engels, en niet zonder reden.
In april ‘23 gaat er, voor het eerst, een Engelstalig, parttime, Accountancy-programma van start bij Nyenrode Business Universiteit, speciaal voor internationale studenten. Met dit nieuwe programma geeft Nyenrode invulling aan de ambitie om nog nadrukkelijker aandacht te geven aan internationalisering en dit verder uit te bouwen.
Met dit portret geven we een inkijkje in het leven van deze nieuwe groep studenten die we binnenkort mogen verwelkomen. Trang Dam (Vietnam), Ahmed Bahadir Dumanli (Turkije) en Kuanling Chu (Taiwan) vertellen over hun achtergrond, hun keuze voor de accountancy en hun ambities en plannen voor de toekomst.
“My mother language was Dutch”
Trang Dam’s father came to the Netherlands in the 70’s as a refugee from Vietnam and was adopted by a Dutch woman. On a visit to Vietnam he met her mom, and Trang was born in the Netherlands. “I lived in the Netherlands until I was 4 or 5, so my mother language was Dutch. Then my parents divorced. I came back to Vietnam with my mum. And then, when I became 18, I came to the Netherlands for university.” What was it like to come back at eighteen and to start here? “Totally different. I think I had a culture shock, the same other Vietnamese would have if they came to the Netherlands.”
“In the Netherlands I believed I could find a job with my English”
Ahmed Bahadir Dumanli studied Economics in his homeland Turkey. He graduated in 2016 and just 15 days later there was a coup, which made it necessary for him to leave the country. He lived in South Africa for three years. Then he decided to go to the Netherlands: “My sisters live in Germany, they asked me to come and live there. But the Germans I met were so serious, and they don’t speak English. I chose The Netherlands because I believed I could find a job with my English.” Ahmed wants to learn Dutch as well, he will start a Dutch course in November. Last year in June he got his acceptance as a refugee, and then after two or three months his working visa.
“I want to be a high skilled immigrant”
Kuanling Chu always knew she wouldn’t stay in Taiwan: “I love my country but for my career I had to leave.” She studied foreign languages and literature and travelled a lot: “I went to America, lots of countries in Asia, Canada, and Europe. The first time I was in The Netherlands I fell in love with this country. The environment is good, people are just friendly.” She decided she wanted to live in the Netherlands eventually. “But I didn’t want to move here and just do a service job, I wanted to be a high skilled immigrant. By the time I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Taiwan, I didn’t know what to do. So I decided to have some working experience first, instead of moving to The Netherlands immediately”
“It was a coincidence that my boyfriend is Dutch”
After her bachelor, Kuanling worked for 2 years, mostly as a purchaser in Vietnam. And then she met her current boyfriend: “He was backpacking in Vietnam. It was a coincidence that he was Dutch. When I told him my plan to move to The Netherlands and to study business, he recommended choosing Nyenrode.” With her parents’ help, she moved to Amsterdam and studied for the Master of Science in Business and Financial Management in Breukelen. “There, during the study at Nyenrode, I figured out for myself I wanted to do accountancy.”
Becoming an accountant
“Please let me be the first one”
“It was difficult to place myself in the finance sector in the Netherlands”, Kuanling continues “In the finance sector there are always Dutch ability requirements.” But then, she saw BDO recruiting for assistant accountants on LinkedIn. At BDO they just opened their recruitment for non-native speaking starters, I actually was the first one. BDO Amstelveen is quite a diverse and international working environment, but hiring international starters was a new development. They asked whether I was confident stepping up to the challenge. I told them: “if you never try you never know, so please give me the opportunity. I can give you feedback and we can work on this together.”
“It’s clear when the job is done”
Trang studied business, and she chose finance as a minor. “In my 3rd year I worked as a financial accountant at Toms One for One Shoes, a sustainable shoes brand. After two years I applied for EY. I work there for 7 months now, so I’m new.” She likes the transparency of Accountancy: “I helped a marketing team once, and there it’s not clear when something is finished, it’s not clear what to do next. With accountancy you match the numbers, and if it matches you move on. It is clear what is expected, and it is really clear when the job is done.”
“Here the way to become an accountant is both theoretical and practical”
In the ‘Seeds-programme’ PwC hires refugees for 7 months to try them out. Ahmed got the opportunity to work via this programme. After that he got a contract for 18 months more, he is very happy about it: “PwC is my dream company to work with”. He wanted to be an accountant and that’s why he chose to study Economics in Turkey. He explains: “In Turkey, it is a totally different route to get there. You have to have the work experience and finally you may obtain the title. Here in the Netherlands it is more both theoretical and practical.”
Working in The Netherlands
“Here there is tolerance for mistakes”
In The Netherlands there is more tolerance for mistakes, Trang says: “In my previous job, in the 3rd day of my job I poured tea in my laptop. I worked from home and my laptop was totally off. So I thought I lost my job, because that would happen in Vietnam. But when I told my boss she was like: ‘Ok, come to the office tomorrow and we will have a new laptop for you.’ And they said they have insurance, so it’s fine. I can forgive myself better now, because you are just human, you know. But in Vietnam you feel really stupid if you make a mistake. You have to be perfect. “
“We tend to avoid our feelings and thoughts”
“In Asia,” Kuanling says, “if we ask too many questions, they will view us as incapable. We are also not allowed to express our own opinions because people over there would think we are hard to be managed. There is no proper channel or environment for us, as an employee, to raise hands and carry our opinions to the team, to the level above and to the company. I would say it is deeply rooted in overall Asian culture. As a result, we tend to avoid our feelings and thoughts. We have a tendency to accept whatever things are given to us, even though we know the situations can be hostile, unfair or some people are not the easiest to encounter.”
“They wish to hear anything from me”
She is impressed with the working culture at BDO: “They translated all materials for me. They help me and give me extra care. They really want me to integrate into the company culture. At BDO, everyone I meet has kept encouraging me to ask anything or tell them about any difficulties or problems I might face. They are always smiling, and I can feel they sincerely wish to hear anything from me and are willing to guide me. Eventually, I came to the point to adjust and adapt myself to this working culture here. Additionally, I have started to learn that, if I already know that I cannot finish something by the end of the week, I should tell my team. So they can move the task to someone else, who has more experience. Because we have time limitations to finish each project. But in Asia, we couldn’t speak about this.”
“In Vietnam our colleague is our sister and our sister is our colleague”
“It’s really nice actually, even when I try to practice my Dutch, they turn to English to talk to me,” Ahmed says about his colleagues. He enjoys working in the Netherlands, but in South-Africa it was easier for him to socialize: “Here, after university, people already have their group of friends, they are not looking for any new friends. Colleagues and friends are different, you cannot be friends with them.” Trang agrees: “The Dutch have friends from kindergarten, and they keep their friends when they grow up. You can’t get into that group so easily. In Vietnam our colleague is our sister and our sister is our colleague, we just mingle all together.”
“They love to go for walks”
Another thing that is typically Dutch for Ahmed: “In every lunch break they love to go for a walk. I love to spend time with them, but sometimes it’s too much. They are almost running …it’s healthy I know, but I need to eat something to be able to work!” He loves Dutch directness: “I need to know what I am doing right or wrong. If no one told me I was wrong, I would keep on doing that for 10 years.”
Lost in translation
For Kuanling, this directness is sometimes hard: “After a meeting with a senior or manager, I would be very critical of myself, because of all the direct feedback.” She found out the directness is reinforced by the fact that she and the senior are both not native English speakers: “I only know because I start to learn Dutch now, that even though Dutch people are direct, in a sentence you put a lot of small words like ‘toch’ or ‘nog’, those words function to soften the message, that’s how you sugarcoat.” But this softening is lost in translation.
Ambitions for the future
“A deeper understanding of accountancy”
In South Africa Ahmed worked as an accountant in a glass company: “It was a small local business. Whatever the boss would say, we did that. There were no principles, no professional experience.” He expects the Master program to give him a deeper understanding of accountancy: “I mean, here at PwC, I will do whatever they say to me, but sometimes I don’t understand. They told me ‘It’s okay, you will learn’. That’s why I’m looking forward to improving myself.” He would advise young people to start working in accountancy at a big 4 company: “Because it is a kind of school as well. You keep learning here, for two years you must ask questions. They expect that from you.”
“I want to be the atlas”
Trang hopes to gain a lot of accountancy knowledge: “I want to know why. At EY we have a website called EY Atlas, where they explain what you have to do in which account. It’s like a dictionary for accounting. I want to be the atlas, I don’t want to read it, I want to be it. I also think university will throw you some courses that you would never study yourself. So that is also good. Without university I would not read ethics. You have to study it so learn through the way.”
“I want to build a career here”
Kuanling feels she is in between Asian and Dutch people and culture now: “If I go back to Taiwan I don’t think I really belong to them, but I also don’t really belong here yet, I’m somewhere in the middle. I want to do ‘inburgering’, to have a passport here, build a career. To have a CPA, that is just very valuable. I hope in the Master I will improve my technical knowledge about IFRS audit standards, because I would like to obtain an international license. I don’t want people to say: ‘Oh another woman who moved to the Netherlands because she has a boyfriend here.’ I want to be equal.”
The rewards of international experience
“Be open to all kinds of people”
Ahmeds marriage is also international, his wife is Indonesian. He had to move from one country to another, what did he learn from that? “To be open to all kinds of people, no matter what”, he says: ”Yes, you can be religious, but you have to respect and be friends with unreligious persons as well. For all differences, when I am close to them, I will learn that they have some fair point as well. You can’t blame them or cut your relationship with them, just go with the common things you have.”
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