When Ikram Bechari first arrived in Kouvola in October 2020 to study international business, she started studies online. Now she also works as a part-time marketing intern and enjoys Finnish life.  

For years Ikram Bechari has known that she wants to be an entrepreneur. She first started business studies in one of the best business schools on the African continent, HEM Business School.

Having studied for three years in her home town, Tangier, an important port and trade city in northern Morocco, she dropped out to start her home bakery business and learn new languages in 2018.

“Becoming an entrepreneur is my ultimate goal. I started KimKim´s Cake Factory at home and was successful in finding customers. But after some time I started to look for new opportunities and decided to continue studies abroad.”

 

Soon she had everythig ready for leaving for Germany to study when Covid-19 situation changed her plans. After searching for a new alternative to study abroad, she found a web site about Finland and realized that she wanted to study there.

“I found videos and other information telling about studies at Xamk and decided to apply. I passed Xamk entrance test, had an interview and got a visa easily.”

Grab every opportunity

She speaks both Arabic and French fluently. In Kouvola she enjoys studying for a BBA degree in Digital International Business in English. In her free time, she networks and learns new skills and languages. She also has access to two office spaces related to student activities at Xamk campus.

“Right after arriving I joined the student association for all BBA degree students in Kymenlaakso region and became their social media manager and communications coordinator on Instagram and Facebook. One of my main tasks is to create content and marketing visuals.”

 

Xamk has been publishing a student magazine Insider every Friday for years. As a member of the editorial staff, Ikram writes about topics that truly interest students.

“We cover topics related to student life and comfort students who are facing challenges. As an Insider journalist, I have been sharing my own experiences and giving useful tips about how to be an efficient student. We even publish recipes for baking, lactose-free diet and ethnic food.”

Until the end of this year she works as a part-time intern on an international Xamk project building an esports ecosystem for gaming in Kymenlaakso region.

“One thing leads to another. I took part in a digital business hackathon for all Xamk campuses and a month later I was offered this internship. Currently, we are building a cross-border network in close co-operation with the Russian ITMO university and together we are organizing an online gaming tournament.”

Learning Finnish

She plans to complete her degree in about 2 – 2,5  years. Besides business studies, she has been learning Finnish online and would love to work for Finnish companies.

“I am studying Finnish to give added value to local companies with my language and business skills. I could help companies that plan entering the North African market.”

 

In her student flat she cooks Moroccan food with spices and oils that she brought along. For her big surprise there is also a Moroccan shop in downtown Kouvola. She also keeps contact with her family daily. Living in Finland, nature has become a part of her life.

“Nature is very close everywhere. I love to ride my bike. With my friends I go to a local small lake to barbecue or we organize small picnic days. If I stay in Finland, I would like to have a summer cabin with a sauna by a lake with trees, birds and berries around.”

Safe haven to study

Many young Arabic women study abroad these days. Ikram Bechami thinks that it is a pity if they choose the obvious locations.

“Why not Finland? I have always felt very safe here. Kouvola is a small peaceful town with beautiful nature around. Everyone has been very welcoming. There are lots of outdoor activities to try both in summer and winter. By the way, I never drank coffee at home but now I drink Finnish coffee like the Finns do. I feel that it is important to integrate and my Finnish friends have been helping me in that. For me integrating means, for example, tasting Finnish food and taking part in everyday life. Camping, skiing and eating Karelian pies.”

She sees that her coming to Finland to study was an investment in her future.

“This experience helps me to become an independent entrepreneur. I gain new knowledge and learn new skills living in a different culture. I expand my international networks all the time. So if you are planning to study in Europe, check the wide spectrum that Finnish universities have to offer. And if you study hard, most of them can grant you a scholarship for your tuition fees. I am sure I will never regret coming here. This was the right choice for me to invest in my future.”

Text and pictures: Päivi Kapiainen-Heiskanen