My name is Yousef, I am 29 years old and I come from Algeria.
I finished my University studies shortly before I came to Malta, and I did not want to rush to start working. At first, I just wanted to travel for a while but then my father suggested that instead I could have the experience of studying abroad.
Malta was not my first choice. At first, I wanted to do my MBA in London, but then I decided to look for good quality options not so far from home. That is how I found out about Malta.
I had never been outside of my country, it was the first time I ever traveled abroad. When I arrived in Malta, I was fascinated by the history of the country, its architecture… But what I liked the most about Malta was how multicultural it is. Here you meet people from all corners of the world every single day.
In the beginning it was hard to engage with local people. You come from a third country and people do not know you and some of them have stereotypes in their minds because of what they see in the media. They might make assumptions about you, especially because of your religion. As time passes, they start to understand who you are, how you live, how your culture is, and things get better.
The University makes this process easier because you get to interact with people on a more regular basis. On campus, we can converse and spend time together. Even teachers sometimes help and incentivise mutual understanding; outside is where the real challenge lays.
I was afraid when coming here because I knew of the stereotypes associated with my religion. I was lucky because I started living with two guys, one Italian and one Spanish, and they were really nice, understanding, and even knew a lot about my culture and my religion. After a week or so I started feeling that, after all, everything would be okay. Unfortunately, not everyone is like that though.
The way the Maltese live is not so different from ours, actually, and even the language is not so different! We have some similar words and that makes me feel as if we were the same. On the other hand, however, in Algeria people are more attached to their families than they are here. There it is normal to have extended families living together, and it is like that all over the country. Here people live more independently. I miss that harmony of a tight community that we have in my country.
Getting documentation is a challenge for us. When I applied I had to wait seven months to get my ID and I could not visit my family. Then, when I got it, it was just for a short time and in that period I could not travel because of my exams. As it expired, and I had to apply again… This bureaucracy is something we have to deal with.
While here, I have tried to get a job and it has not been easy. Some companies only accept you if you already have your work permit, they do not wish to have the bureaucratic hassle. That is why I have decided to open my own business, and I would like to do it here in Malta.
The duration of my studies was supposed to be one year and now I am here for almost two years, it shows how I already feel a part of Malta. I am not sure if I am going to stay, but I would like to.
Interview by Ana Ferreira