Obada went from Syria to the Netherlands and from Linguistics to Biotechnology: ‘I’m very focused on my career’

The Erasmus Mundus exchange programme brought Obada Zaidany to the Netherlands. But his master’s degree in Linguistics didn’t provide him with enough job opportunities. His turn to a different approach paid off, as he is currently working fulltime as an R&D technician for Intravacc, while studying for his master’s degree in Molecular Life Sciences.

Deeltijd masterstudent Obada Zaidany

At the moment of the interview, Obada Zaidany (34) is in Turkey. He’s visiting his mother and 3 brothers, who are temporarily seeking refuge from their war-torn home country Syria. “They are doing relatively okay”, says Obada. “There are jobs and opportunities to study for them in Turkey. In time, they hope they can go back to Syria.”

Obada himself is not planning on going back, though. For that, he already built too much in the Netherlands.

Degree in hard science

After he came to Groningen on an Erasmus Mundus exchange for his master’s in Linguistics, Obada decided to stay. “I didn’t want to be forced into military service and join whatever was – and still is – going on there.” Although he didn’t want to be a refugee, he was left no choice when he found out he couldn’t find a proper job with his degree.

It made Obada decide to take a completely different approach. “As the Netherlands is a kenniseconomie [knowledge economy, red.] I figured I’d be better off with a degree in so-called hard science. I hesitated between chemical engineering and medical laboratory research, and in the end chose the latter because I like the environment of the lab more than, for example, a chemical plant.”

An entirely different field than Linguistics, of course. Although there is some overlap, if you ask Obada. “Linguistics can be hard science as well, with research on how diseases like MS and ALS affect speech for instance. The thing that I like more about what I do now, is that you can really see the results of what you do in real life. There’s tangible output.”

Career instead of a social life

After completing the bachelor’s degree in Leiden, Obada wanted to further pursue his studies to improve his chances on the job market. “I told my manager at Intravacc [where he works as a bioprocess technician, ed.] about my plans, and they advised me to go to the HAN for the parttime master in Molecular Life Sciences. They were willing to help me with my tuition fees as well.”

Obada is extremely motivated to succeed with his career. He graduated cum laude from his bachelor’s degree in Leiden, and is currently working hard to graduate in 2 years on the master at HAN. Which is not an easy task, combining it with working 4 days a week. “I currently don’t have much free time.”

“It is hard sometimes, my weekends are fully dedicated to writing reports and studying for exams. I notice there isn’t much time to focus on building up my social life, but for now I’m okay with that. I want to focus on my career. And well, now that I managed to get my driver’s license, maybe there’s a little bit more time left to do nice things.”

Feeling Dutch

With his fellow students from the parttime master’s degree, for example. “They are mainly Dutch. I am proud to say I can speak Dutch fluently and can therefore join in conversations with them quite well. I’m starting to feel more like a Dutch national, than an international student.”

Obada also has some Syrian friends in Capelle aan den IJssel who he meets from time to time. But his main focus remains on his career. “I’m planning to follow-up my master’s degree with a PhD as well. Something in the interface of synthetic biology and bioprocessing. But I want to be able to combine it with a job, because I don’t want to go back to university fulltime again.”

Want to know more about a parttime master in life sciences? Check the website

Photo David van Haren