"We should cherish and embrace our freedom."

Farzad's dad came to the Netherlands as a refugee. Now Farzad works at Erasmus University Rotterdam

At a young age, Farzad moved to the Netherlands from Iran. Now, he works at EUR and organises the Bachelor Open Days and the HeartBeat Festival.

Refugee

"In the 1980s my father came to the Netherlands as a refugee. Refugees were looked at differently then. With sympathy, and an open mind."

After he received a residence permit, my mother, brother and I flew after him. We ended up in the Groningen countryside. That took some getting used to. Not just the climate or the food but also the people. Physically I was in the Netherlands but in my head I regularly returned to my country of birth. Those moments I felt close to my grandparents again, which we unfortunately had to leave behind. They secretly gave me some pocket money every week, which I immediately spent on candy."

Freedom

"Living in freedom is a privilege. I want to shout it from the rooftops when I see how often we often take it for granted. I have been back to Iran a few times and there I was confronted with the fact that freedom is unfortunately not naturally for everyone. Therefore we must embrace and cherish it."

"Give refugees some time to integrate."

Two-way street

"Moving to another country means you (partly) master a different culture. It starts with opening yourself up to it. But we often overlook that integration is a two-way street. As a newcomer you must have the opportunity and time to integrate.

Erasmus University is not just talking the talk. Refugee students can follow a preparatory year in preparation for a bachelor or master study so they have a better chance to succeed. And there are very many students on campus who would like to help a refugee student with learning the Dutch language."

Plan

"I have been living in the Netherlands for much longer than I have ever lived in Iran. And my homeland becomes a pile of memories, deeply tucked away in my brain.

In one thing I will never become  a Dutchman: I don't want to plan anything, not even now that I am the father of two beautiful daughters. I'd rather absorb life in all its facets as if every day is my last."