In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take!
Name: Hassan Khan
Course: BSc Mathematics with Economics
Placement Position: HR Training
Location: Alshaya Group, Kuwait
‘In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take’, I have always lived my life believing in this quote and taking on an abroad work placement was not only a difficult decision but also a brave one.
I managed to get my abroad placement in one of the largest companies in the Middle East known as Alshaya Group in Kuwait. Deciding to live the expat life in the Middle East at first was a very daunting thought, knowing that there will be a culture shock on arrival and the whole lifestyle will be very different. However, I accepted the challenge and wanted to try a new experience and see a different perspective to life.
Initially finding the placement was a difficult task at first, but the key to any second year student is to just keep applying! I had started my application processes in early October and ended up finding the one I wanted in June, dedication? You just get better and better at applications as the year goes on, practice makes perfect, just like anything else in life. After a few interviews and being offered the role I was over the moon, but the whole idea of travelling to a new country, in my case a whole new continent, on my own was scary at first. However, as I had found the placement through Aston Futures, Aston was very helpful to get me in contact with the few other people who also got the placement in the same company, we made a WhatsApp group and got to know each other and a few were on my flight which just made the whole experience less fearful, as now there are others in the same boat as me. Leaving my family and friends behind was an emotional scene, however the moment I landed in Kuwait international airport and began my new journey in life, there was a feeling of excitement through my body and I was really looking forward to starting work the next day.
The company I was offered the role provided accommodation as well transport, and as soon as I got off the plane, there was a company representative waiting with my name on a board, he got me through immigration skipping all the queues and into a car and straight to my new home. Getting all this VIP treatment was one of the first impressions I got of this country, if you work for a good enough place and you have the right qualifications, you get treated like a king in the Middle East. My new home was fantastic, had an amazing view from the 8th floor of the area I was staying in which is known as Salmiya.
First thing next morning I had to be ready by 7 am as there was a minibus pick us all interns up at 7 am to get us to work on time for 8 am. Very convenient, but extremely early for a guy like me whose spent his summer holidays waking up at midday every day! It’s been approximately 3 weeks now and I’m still not used to the early mornings. But anyways, once we hit the office, I was stunned and amazed at the city around us and the actual building the placement was in is a 42 floor skyscraper and my own desk is based on the 22nd floor and the views from my desk is incredible! This is where you start to feel like ‘mum I made it’. So, the first week at work was pretty much just introduction to the company and getting to know all our colleagues. The company environment itself is very friendly, and it’s got such great diversity, I was told the company itself has over 120+ different nationalities working for them, so fitting in was not an issue at all as people all around us are different to one another and it’s a wonderful feeling getting to know them and their culture from a different perspective rather than just what we see on the news.
During my whole moving out experience I had faced some difficulties as well in my first couple of weeks, the first week felt like a holiday, the second week I started to get home sick and now the third week, I’ve just slowly adjusted to the lifestyle and environment but still a lot to adjust. I faced many problems with my accommodation such as the tap water coming out yellow, AC in my room not working and the weather outside being 53 degrees, just imagine sleeping in that heat! Another drastic change was the currency in the country, Kuwait’s currency is the strongest currency in the world and it is the first country I have visited where the British pound is worth less, so everything here such as groceries and restaurants as well as taxis are a lot more expensive compared to the UK, which was another shock, I’ve now made a spreadsheet to keep intact with my finances. Also, a huge language barrier, people in Kuwait speak Arabic and when they realise your from the UK especially shopkeepers and taxi drivers, they will always try rip you off with prices they make up on the spot, therefore I need to certainly improve some Arabic and haggling skills.
The best thing about this country is that everybody pretty much goes out at night as during the day its over 50 degrees, so shopping malls and nearly everything is open till midnight at least, which means coming home from work at 5 pm, we have plenty of time to go out and explore.
Although I had faced difficulties, being nervous and emotional about leaving home, I have felt like in only 3 weeks of being here in Kuwait, I have already developed myself and become more street smart more than anything, learning how to live and manage my life alone, rather than just being spoon fed back home all the time. I have 11 months to spend here and to explore the Kuwaiti/Arabic culture as well as explore some amazing sights which I have yet to post about.