We from Skiwo would like to introduce our new employee Mohamad Kensas from Syria, who will support the team as interpreter and quality assurance tester. In the following, you find a short interview about his flight from Syria to Norway, the challenges he encountered as a refugee and his plans for the future.
What country are you originally from? What is your background?
My name is Mohamad, I am 25 years old and from Aleppo in Syria. I studied Computer Engineering at the Information Technology Institute in Aleppo for more than two years. Due to the war in Syria I could not finish my studies. Young men were forced to attend military service which I did not want to join. I wanted to live in a safe place and therefore decided to leave my home country and fled to Turkey at the age of 23.
How long did you stay in Turkey, and how did you come to be in Norway?
I lived in Turkey for around about a year. From day one, refugees in Turkey have to work in order to finance their living. I wanted to find a job and continue studying but there was no support to learn the language properly and studying would have been very expensive. So, I decided to take a refugee boat to Greece and continue my journey from there. As I have relatives living in Norway, I bought a plane ticket to Norway after a month in Greece.
You came as a refugee to Norway. How did you find your first days and months?
When I arrived in Norway in October 2014, my personal documents and ID were checked by the police at the airport. Public authorities interviewed me in order to determine if I was allowed to stay in Norway. I was sent to a reception camp for refugees in Oslo, where I had to undergo some medical tests and received health care treatments. During that time, I was living with refugees from all over the world with different cultural backgrounds. We shared rooms and other facilities. Even though the circumstances were not so good in the camp, it could not stop me from learning Norwegian from the first day on. After various tests and interviews, I received a permission of residence in Norway, limited to three years. In the following month, I was transferred to a permanent refugee camp, 8 hours away from Oslo. The permanent camp was organised differently, for example I received a certain amount of money per day, so that I could purchase food and cook on my own. The officials also provided language courses and I continued to learn Norwegian.
After four months, I left the permanent camp, as I got a job in a mobile and computer repair shop through my cousin.
How did you feel about settling in a different country? Did you encounter a lot of bureaucracy in Norway?
I appreciate that Norway offers an introduction program of two years for refugees. During this program, public authorities develop an individual plan for every refugee, which outlines how they want to start their lives in the country. For me, the plan included language courses and my wish to continue my computer science studies. The authorities were checking my previous education and experience in order to determine if I could continue studying right away, or had to attend preparation courses. They also developed a schedule for me with different courses which I would have to complete before I can start a bachelor program in Norway. I plan to complete these courses and start a study program at a university in Oslo as well. In addition, I can attend language courses for free during this program. Sometimes, there are long processes because I have to align everything with the officials, but I value the opportunities that they offer to me.
Do you think language is the key to integrating into a foreign society?
Yes, I think, that learning the local language is one of the most important things if you want to live and work in a different country. For me, it was the best chance that I could learn Norwegian. I appreciate that the Norwegian government provides free language courses to refugees to support their integration. Thereby, they give refugees a lot more opportunities for their future in Norway. For example, it is much easier to find a job if you can speak the language. But it also simplifies everyday life and the whole integration into Norwegian society.
Do you feel integrated into Norwegian society?
Since I left my home country, I was looking for a place where I am free and safe. I appreciate that the people here are following the law and I can live in security. Also I receive support and have the opportunity to develop my skills.
What plans do you have for your future in Norway?
I want to find a permanent job in computer science or as a developer, and plan to continue my studies and get a degree in computer science or a related subject. It is also very important for me to help my family, who are staying in Turkey at the moment, and support them with money.
Do you want to return to your home country in the long run?
There is no place like home but it is very difficult to return under the current conditions. If the war in Syria would end and living there would be safe again, I would like to return to my country and help to build it up again.
How did you become aware of Skiwo?
When I arrived in Norway and during my interviews and appointments with public authorities, I became aware of the demand for interpreters. The government is in need of interpreters who support them in the refugee crisis to ease communication and official processes. During official appointments, I had an interpreter who was not trained properly for my situation. Therefore, it came to my mind to become an interpreter myself. After I had learned Norwegian, I was just googling different interpretation providers and applied as a freelancer. I was successful and immediately got a contract. I also joined Skiwo’s open marketplace and created my profile. Afterwards I was contacted by Skiwo and completed a test assignment as well as an interview where we discussed opportunities for me to work with Skiwo.
What do you plan to learn with Skiwo, and what will be your tasks?
I will work part-time at Skiwo as an interpreter but also quality assurance tester. I am full of energy and looking forward to working here. I also hope that I can build up a professional network.
Thank you for the interview Mohamad and all the best for your future!