At the age of 14, Keghart Krikour (now 20) fled from the Syrian city of Hassaka to the Netherlands. He was alone, because his parents and brother came later. Now he has graduated summa cum laude from gymnasium and is going to study medicine at Erasmus MC.
After his flight, Keghart ended up in Ter Apel, and via AZCs (asylum seekers’ centres) eventually in Enschede. Because he could not attend Dutch lessons right away, he taught himself Dutch with the help of YouTube, so that he could start with havo year 2 in Enschede. A year later, his high marks allowed him to go to year 3 of gymnasium. During the summer holidays, he caught up on Latin. Now he has graduated summa cum laude for his gymnasium diploma at Het Stedelijk Lyceum Kottenpark in Enschede, with an average of 9 or higher for all subjects. For mathematics B, physics and the biology profile paper he obtained a 10. This September, Keghart will start studying medicine at the Erasmus MC.
You have been interviewed about this by the AD, Volkskrant and RTL. Were you caught off guard by all that media attention?
"Yes, actually I was. I did not approach the media myself, but a friend of mine called local newspaper Tubantia. That's where the media circus started. I now receive 400 friend requests a day via Instagram. I still enjoy talking to you, because I am looking forward to studying in Rotterdam! Today, I went to the municipality to receive my Dutch nationality. The woman who handed it to me wanted to take a picture with me, because I had been in the news."
Congratulations on that! Was it difficult to obtain the Dutch nationality?
"It took almost six years in total. I have been here for almost six years now."
"It appeals to me that the courses take place in the hospital: that you have direct contact with patients.''
What direction do you want to go during your education?
"Surgery, because I am fascinated by the human body. And I am not afraid of blood. I think making people better with your hands is the most beautiful thing you can do. I myself was operated on once in Syria. Afterwards I was very grateful to the doctor who had helped me. I want to be able to give that to people too. I want to be able to help people.''
Are you already living in Rotterdam?
"Yes, I have found a room within walking distance of the hospital, in Delfshaven. I have already bought stuff for it at Ikea. It wasn't easy to find a room in Rotterdam. But based on my grades, I was immediately admitted to the study, so I already knew I would come here. I responded to an endless number of rooms. I would prefer to stay in the Randstad in the future. Erasmus MC has an international focus: hopefully I will be able to study or work abroad for a year during my studies.''
"My goal is to eventually become a good surgeon. I think healing people with your hands is the best thing you can do.''
Do you want to graduate cum laude here as well?
"That is not necessarily the goal. It would be nice of course. But above all I would like to find my place here, and eventually become a very good surgeon."
If you want to achieve something, do you succeed?
"Yes, that is my mentality. I don't know why I am so driven. It's just a feeling. I always keep going, I never give up. It has helped me a lot so far. Running away has made me older mentally, I have been through a lot, experienced a lot of stress. But I think I also look at life differently than my peers: I have to achieve something in my life, life is not just about enjoying. Having a goal is important. Life has no flavour if you don't have a purpose. When you come to the Netherlands as a refugee, you have nothing. Getting my gymnasium diploma, and now studying at Erasmus MC, gives me a chance to make something beautiful out of it."