The award is presented to a student of exceeding talent and perseverance. One of this year's three nominees is Pouya Zarchin, who obtained his bachelor degree in Communication Science at VU Amsterdam. We conducted an interview with this star.
I left Iran with my parents and sister in 2010. We first went to Istanbul. My parents then left for the Netherlands, and my sister and I followed them 2.5 months later. We fled Iran because my father had run afoul of the authorities, due to his political activities.
I personally had no idea what country we would end up in. In the end, we came to the Netherlands. I knew nothing of this small country. I did not even know it had its own language. Once I had arrived here, I realised that this country would be my home. A strange feeling, to be sure.What really surprised me when we first arrived was how friendly the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee staff were. When I told the officer I was here to request asylum, he smiled at me. Unbelievable. In Iran, the police is the enemy.
I was first taken to the Schiphol Judicial Detention Centre. From there, I went to the Dronten asylum seekers' centre. It took about 9 months for me to get an asylum residence permit.
What do and don't you like about the Netherlands?
I travel a lot, and every time I come back I realise that the Netherlands is the best country in the world. It is safe here, and people respect one another. You decide for yourself what your limits are here.
What I like less is the fact that many Dutch people have a rather one-sided, even naive, perspective of the world around them. When you say you're from another country, people look at you like you're special. People believe that everything is better in the Netherlands and that a foreigner cannot, for instance, be highly educated. In the first year of my studies I was told that I would not be able to complete them. And look at me now.
What is your greatest ambition?
I like to set myself ambitious goals to achieve. This was true when I lived in Iran, and it's still true now I'm here in the Netherlands. To be honest, I can't tell you where this attitude comes from. Achieving a goal I've set myself just makes me happy. It's kind of an addiction.
I'm sometimes told I am an "example refugee". But I feel that's too much responsibility for me to carry; I don't want that burden. For it means I should heed what I do, which I don't like to do.
You have only recently obtained your Communication Science degree, but have already started pursuing your next degree.
Immediately after arriving in the Netherlands, I started learning the language. Following my preparatory year, I started studying in 2013. I did a lot of research in the field of media psychology, studying subjects like the effects of games on the brain of youngsters and the use of robots in education. In September, I started my Business Administration master's degree course. In addition, I work as a part-time project officer for Berenschot and have started up my own company with a friend of mine.
What would you like to impress on refugee students?
I don't believe it makes all that much of a difference whether you were born here or came here from another country. It's up to you to make the difference. That's why it's important to keep believing in yourself and to never give up. I had my doubts, and had them often, but in the end I always persevered.