Photographer: Aleksi Kokora – Editor: Sems Erik
“A story of continued success”
It is quite uncommon for successful and innovative Middle Eastern individuals particularly from Egypt, the cradle of civilizations and cultural diversity, to be featured in Finnish media. This time, our narrative is about a young Egyptian who stands out for his personality, his practical success, and the unconventional way in which he began his residency in Finland.
The situation of immigrants with higher degrees has become a very sensitive issue in Finland, as it sometimes constitutes a major crisis in how to integrate them into the Finnish labor market and the challenges they are facing. However, our presentation on this topic will be from a totally different perspective, leaving a fresh and encouraging impression for many to follow and gain inspiration. Born and raised in Cairo, Nasreldin Soliman studied at the Faculty of Engineering in Cairo and worked as an infrastructure and planning engineer for one of the largest companies in Cairo. Three years after graduation, he felt the urge to leave Egypt, explore the rest of the world, and gather new experiences while expanding his academic and professional expertise.
He is very much a socialite and sports enthusiast. Even after relocating to Finland, he continues to live by his guiding principles, including his religious and spiritual convictions as well as family values.
24-years of age and beyond
At 24, I made the decision to travel and work outside of Egypt Until recently, improving my English was my main priority. I applied for visas to other countries, including Germany and England, but the process was challenging. I was still motivated by this concept after learning that a friend of mine from Spain, whose friend was able to use Au Pair to travel to England and work as an au-pair for three months despite not understanding English. In my search for this organization, I discovered its benefits and information on how to apply for a job opportunity in Europe and elsewhere in the world based on the sectors and disciplines it offers.
I applied more than once, as I wanted to improve my English skills so badly, so I could pursue
postgraduate studies in my field. After attending a conference in Poland related to my field of work, I stayed in contact with a Finnish family. While they promptly offered me a place within their family to do the Au Pair duties for their two young sons, they suggested that I visit Finland as a tourist firstly to discover the country and see if I find it appealing before applying for the Au-Pair visa
A few weeks after enjoying my visit, I received approval to work in Finland for a whole year as an Au Pair. With my Au-Pair visa secured, I had intended to study for a master’s degree at Ghent University in Belgium thereafter – but things went otherwise, I had the opportunity to work in the fields of education and childcare for a Finnish family as an au pair. My Finnish host family was looking for someone with a good command of English to deal with the children because they were studying in English schools. They chose me, and that was the main key for my entry to Finland.
Day one & afterward
On December 15, 2016, I moved to Finland and saw snow for the first time ever in my life. Although it was an odd, freezing sensation with the temperature at below twenty Celsius, it was enjoyable. The host family welcomed me with open arms, and spent a lot of time and energy assisting me in adjusting to their home and life in general.
It felt wonderful seeing how the family made it abundantly evident that they were familiar with my culture, my home nation, and my way of life. Despite coming from a different culture, they treated me like a new part of the family, making it easier to communicate with a mutual understanding of one another.
As an organized person with a non-random lifestyle, it was easy for me to adapt, knowing that Finns are also very structured people who follow the system and make plans in advance. This made me happier since it created a mental bridge between us, making it easier for me to adjust to this family and my new life in Finland.
This was the first job in starting a new phase of my career and entering the Finnish labor market. I’ve always thought of my role as an Au pair with two children as a real-world experience that will determine whether I’ve successfully settled in Finland or not, which will have an impact on my future career.
Six months into my one-year Au Pair agreement, more career opportunities appeared to me. After some thoughts, I informed the host family about transitioning my Finnish journey into the engineering sector, as well as continuing my postgraduate studies. With their support, my host family encouraged me to advance in my journey.
Serious steps forward
Since my work visa was valid for only a year, I had about four months remaining in my visa after leaving my Au Pair job. Besides my poor Finnish language skills, it was stressful finding a job due to the tight schedule. I focused on finding office and design-related employment with English as a main aspect, it was honestly one of the most difficult periods of my life. I was continuously worried that I wouldn’t be able to find the perfect opportunity for my path. Despite all the challenges, I remained optimistic and sure that I would succeed.
There was once the possibility of moving to Belgium to pursue a master’s degree. After discovering that the expenses of a Belgian education had increased beyond my means, I decided to prioritize my decision to continue my job and studies in Finland.
The hunt for a job in the engineering field started with the help of an Egyptian friend. Not only did he get me familiarized with the industry rules and regulations, but he also provided the names of some big reputable firms. After applying for a few structural designer roles in the Helsinki area, I received the chance to do 3 interviews, one of them with my previous employer Ramboll.
After two interviews, I managed to secure a designer position at this firm, starting with a trial period of 6 months. five years of employment at Ramboll was full of social, cultural, and work experiences. As I learned more about the Finnish culture through my colleagues,. I participated in Mega projects, such as the shopping mall Tripla in Pasila, the new Nokia Areena in Tampere, and the extension of Helsinki-Vantaa airport, as well as my small role as a steel designer in the new central library Oodi.
Personally, the hardest part was learning the language as I assimilated into the Finnish culture as an employee. I had to work twice as hard to meet my goals for my career, and for my overall quality of life in Finland.
Truthfully, I had little trouble assimilating into the Finnish society; although the absence of family was a major drawback, that didn’t stop me from achieving my objectives and forging my unique path, on which I’ve been able to share my inspirational journey with others. One of the key lessons I want all new immigrants to learn is how to cope with the country; learning and understanding how things differ from one’s home country helps one integrate into society. Not only does it produce a sense of belonging, but it also sets the basis for a successful integration while concentrating on your work’s quality and self-expression.
My cultural and personal identity
After leaving Egypt, my goal was to serve as an example of an Egyptian Arab person on numerous levels. On a personal level, assimilating into society does not entail giving up my values and views, whether they be religious or cultural in general. Doing so would mean giving up what makes me unique and sets me apart from others.
A person’s ability to adapt and coexist with others, whether it’s in the workplace or in daily life, as long as this does not go against Finnish laws or common norms, is the basis for integration in Finland.
But in contrast to the idea of having two personalities, I think a person should be themselves without copying others or trying to win over anyone or anything.
A fresh start
While I feel like I’ve found my footing after spending a lot of time in the same line of work, I don’t believe that I’m growing as a person. I think this type of thinking is unhealthy. I have a comprehensive understanding of psychology, and am aware of how important emotions are.
By majoring in civil engineering, I’ve made it my goal to contribute to the urban culture and civilization of the nation to which I belong. I also participated in initiatives, whose main goal is to foster a racial harmony and act as a hub for meeting people from other cultures. This is illustrated in some projects, the most notable of which is the Audi Library Project, as it represents a qualitative shift in the library culture. Unlike traditional libraries around the world, they also host a variety of cultural, social, and other activities where people can interact and start to feel as though they are in a world with various landmarks.
As the capital’s airport was updated with a new gateway that introduced visitors to Finland and its culture through the architecture, design, and raw materials, I felt that I could provide more. While my professional experience was successful, I still had fresh ideas and a vision.
Up until my current job at AFRY that I accepted three months ago, I started a new process that was completely different from the prior ones
It was a fresh shift on all levels, but what truly distinguishes this new stage from others is that I obtained my master’s degree on the same day I was accepted.
Some people would wonder how I managed to balance my education and career, especially with intense concentration in my line of work. To be quite honest, one of the main factors in raising my academic standing was the time after the epidemic. Because of online education, I was able to study at home, while setting aside the early hours for work and the evening hours for other pursuits
Thanks to my eight years of job experience in Finland and Egypt, I was able to earn my master’s degree with ease. Building and construction methods were the main emphasis of my master’s research. I improved my understanding of design strategies, patterns, and methodologies, as well as the dynamic vibration approach in metal construction, which contributed to improving my work and my current professional skills.
As there’s always room for bettering oneself, I eventually plan to obtain my Ph.D. and make career advancements within the next five to ten years.
I’m striving to take on some projects under my direction as a manager in the near future, along with the goal of further developing the work position. In order to maintain and expand my professional success in Finland, I’m currently improving my Finnish language skills in order to become a future decision-maker in the market.
Since I’m unavoidably ambitious, I also aspire to launch my own business one day where I can collaborate with colleagues, mentor them, and share my skills and beliefs with them.