This time, we introduce you to Ashraf. Ashraf arrived in the Netherlands in 2015 and got to know Welcome app when we had just started the initiative (back then it was called Blendin) and were introducing the concept to various newcomers to see if there was interest. Welcome app focused on facilitating contact between newcomers and locals. Ashraf had just arrived in the Netherlands and was learning the language. Welcome app seemed appealing to him: meeting locals and having an additional opportunity to practice the language!
In addition to being matched with a local with whom he practiced the language and met in an approachable manner, he also connected with the Welcome app team itself. He was invited to barbecues and other events and became friends with a part of the team. A barbecue in the park with the team marked the start of a special collaboration.
Ashraf embarked on a bachelor’s degree in Applied Psychology and also wanted a part-time job. Julius, the founder of the Welcome app and an entrepreneur at heart, was also running PONG, a ping pong bar in Amsterdam, at that time. Ashraf was able to work at PONG and worked there for 1.5 years, until his studies and job were no longer compatible. Furthermore, he became actively involved within Welcome app. Welcome app provided him with the opportunity to practice his Dutch while helping others by utilizing his background in Applied Psychology. With an eye toward the future, he saw Welcome app as a platform to share his knowledge and experience. He conducted training sessions on cultural differences and psychological topics, aimed at increasing newcomers’ awareness of life in the Netherlands.
Several years have passed since then, and Ashraf and I converse in Dutch while he is finishing his degree in Applied Psychology (with some delay due to the pandemic). Ashraf shares, “Besides being a useful tool, the app also gave me a sense of belonging and the ability to be myself during activities and gatherings. That was very important, especially in the beginning.” Nowadays, he no longer uses Welcome app as a newcomer: “I now see myself as a local, as a Dutchie, and no longer as a newcomer. I’m on the other side now,” he says with a laugh.
What does the future hold for Ashraf? In line with his initial experience with Welcome app, he dreams of becoming a trainer. The specifics of how and what, he doesn’t yet know. But first, he wants to complete his studies in Applied Psychology. And in his free time? He enjoys playing ping pong at PONG!