//success story

To start with, I'd like to understand a little better who you are, where you're from if you can introduce yourself in a few words.
name is Feven, I'm of Eritrean origin, I'm 25 years old and I've been in Switzerland for eight years now. I grew up in Eritrea and came to Geneva to join my parents who were here before me. My father came first, then my mother with my little brother, and finally my sister and me.

Could you tell me a little more about yourself?
My father came to Switzerland at the end of 2011 as a political refugee, like most Eritreans. He was able to reunite his family when he got his permit. My mother fought in the war thirty years ago, which made it easier for her and our younger brother to leave the country. My sister and I were refused passports. We had to find another solution. You can't just get on a plane and leave when you're young, you have to stay for military service.

What was your departure like?
I'd like to make it clear that my immigration is therefore very different from some people since my parents were already there. What my sister and I had to do was manage to get out of the country. The aim was to get to Sudan and catch a plane to Switzerland, the journey was supposed to take three days by car, but in the end it took us three weeks. We had all the problems you can have with a smuggler, all they care about is the money. And until they get what they want, everything is blocked.

What kind of problems?
We walked a lot and they tried to sell us for example, so we had to pay even more. I try not to put too much importance on these events, as there are many migrant people who encounter more complicated problems along the way.

Thank you for sharing your journey. I'd be very interested in discussing your educational background now, to understand where you are today.
, I finished middle school in Eritrea. When I arrived in Khartoum in September, that's when I should have entered university. When I arrived in Geneva in December, school had already started, so I had to wait until the end of February before I could join a reception class. In the meantime, I attended free French classes at La Roseraie three times a week. I've always been a student, so it was impossible for me to do nothing. So I spent a year and a half in a reception class, then started secondary school, which gave me the opportunity to continue what I wanted to do in Eritrea.  

And what were you doing in Eritrea?
In Eritrea, I was studying science. I wanted to do psychology or computer science. In fact, I applied to the computer school in Geneva, but I wasn't accepted because of the language barrier. So I went to the Collège, where I stayed for a year. It was a difficult year, I had to learn a second language, Italian as well as French, it was really complicated. I had a lot of trouble with essays and literature. For everything else, I had the level. With the complexity of college, I had to make a choice, and it seemed obvious to me that I had to forget my dreams of psychology for a while. I needed to do some training that could lead me to employment. I looked at the possibilities and went to business school where, after three or four years, I could work. So I did the CFC at business school, then the Maturité. Today, I'm studying International Business Management at the Haute École de Commerce while working in accounting.

And how did you cope with this change?
It was hard at first. I couldn't help feeling behind my friends who were at university in Eritrea. I was twenty-one and my classmates were sixteen or seventeen. I got on well with them, and they understood my background, but there was this gap that was present. For example, all I wanted to do was go to school, come home, study and sleep. I did, however, meet a friend who I'm still seeing today. Over time, this feeling calmed down and I realized that we all had different paths and that mine was like that. If my friends from Geneva had ended up in Eritrea, they would have gone through the same thing I did. Today, this choice allows me to work and I don't regret it.

"I have a passion for helping people. That is why I volunteered with the Association of Intercultural Mediators (AMIC) or even during COVID with the association Colis du Cœur."

I also understand that it was Yojoa who helped you find your current job. How did you meet Yojoa?Yes, it's true, I found my job thanks to Yojoa. I met Emmanuelle and Amanda when I was in my second year of business school, through the association AMIC, with which they had a partnership and for which I volunteered. I was then looking for internships to complete my training, during which we were strongly encouraged to do them. For my part, it was difficult; I didn't have much of a network. Emmanuelle and Amanda allowed me to do two internships: one at BNP Paribas and another at the Trafigura Foundation. When I graduated, I was looking for a job and Emmanuelle got in touch with me. In September 2021, I started high school at 50% in order to combine school and work. In November, she offered me an interview at Civitas Maxima, and I have been working there ever since in administration and accounting.

How is the work going?

‍I feel very happy and fulfilled. Everything is going well: I speak with everyone, I work with a group of lawyers within a small NGO so they are very open and the atmosphere is family-like. Everything has gone smoothly from the beginning. The director is an incredible person and most of us are women. They understand that I am a student and I can arrange my schedule around exams and revision time, for example. I make up my hours afterwards. It's perfect for me.

‍"When I was looking for a job, I saw advertisements that said "French-speaking", "native French speaker" or even "European profile". You know you can do the job, but you don't fit the profile."

Generally speaking, how do you feel about your integration in Geneva?
I feel integrated, I have spent a third of my life here. I have gradually built up my network through various activities, such as hiking. But it's true that it's not easy to make friends in Switzerland, you really have to dig deep, groups of friends don't mix very well. Most of my current friends are people who came to Switzerland as adults from very different backgrounds.

If you think about your whole journey, which moments were the most difficult? Did you face any barriers or prejudices?
I haven't experienced much prejudice, but I'm a very open person and I don't like to take things to heart. I know there are differences and that I don't look like many of the people who live here. There are looks from time to time, but I don't take them to heart. The most difficult thing in terms of barriers, and I have talked about this before, is the network. It's difficult when you haven't lived in one place forever, you know fewer people and everything takes more time. The other barrier I would say is knowledge of the school system. For example, I wouldn't have gone to university if I'd known, and I wouldn't have wasted a year. Well, now I'm living it well and that's life, everything changes all the time. For example, I never imagined that I would be living in Switzerland. Today I really like my job and I study. I can say that I am fulfilled.

Thank you for sharing. Finally, I have one more question: what are your future aspirations?
I'm still working on it, and it's hard to plan ahead when I still have so much studying to do. To be honest, psychology remains in the background. Of course, I will never make a career out of it, but I am thinking about doing small training courses on the side, or taking a path closer to people. Human Resources, for example, is very people-oriented, as is Management, which I'm studying at the moment. It remains to be seen. Fortunately, nothing stops me from reading books on psychology!