Name: Niaz Rayan
Birthplace: Sarobi, Afghanistan
Place of residence: Manchester, UK
Undergraduate and Business School programme: B.Sc International Business, Finance and Economics. Currently studying MBA at Alliance Manchester Business School.
Can you tell us a little bit about your life and career before studying a business degree?
Since an early age I have always tried to take part in entrepreneurial activities and business has always excited me. During my early years in high school, I became the friend that would sell sweets and crisps in class. This developed from just me to myself and a few friends doing it in different classes, essentially becoming a high school ‘franchise’ for sweets. When I started college at 16, I adapted to a more professional line of business and started selling electronics on eBay that I would import from China. During my breaks I would sit in the library and print postage labels to ship the products. I still remember the excitement I felt making my first sale and seeing the email on my blackberry at the time. After leaving college I started my bachelors at the University of Manchester and began working part time at Manchester United and Manchester City football clubs. I continued this during my undergraduate degree. I managed to secure an internship with Aldi during my bachelors which led to the company giving me a full time offer after graduation. I worked at Aldi for a year and then left the company to start my own business.
Talk us through your decision to seek refuge and move, and the journey this involved?
I can only speak for what my parents must have gone through, but we moved to the UK in 2003. I was 9 years old at the time. The decision to move to the UK was down to the conditions in Afghanistan at the time. From 2000-2005 is when the war was at its highest intensity and all aspects of life in the country suffered, especially education. My parents made the decision to move here firstly for safety and secondly to give us the best chance to succeed and I believe it is my responsibility to take advantage of every opportunity that is presented to me.
What did you find most difficult when arriving in a completely new country?
Language and culture was a big issue for me initially and I struggled with it. However, I picked this up fast as my mum used to put a lot of effort with me back in Afghanistan when it came to education. I did well in school there as a result and translated this to when I moved to the UK. Very quickly I was helping my mum when going shopping or translating at appointments. I remember having a language support assistant in my primary school years and struggling to understand my classmates at the time but by the time I hit high school my language skills got better and better.
Why did you decide to apply for Alliance Manchester Business School, and the MBA?
Having done my undergraduate degree here, I know the reputation Manchester Business School has and I have seen how the business school has transformed since my graduation. Therefore, I really wanted to be a part of the school and study my MBA here. I am always keen to learn more and learn through doing. I believe the Manchester MBA has given me that chance by meeting people from across the world and working on various projects together.
How was your experience and what did you find most challenging?
My experience has been mixed as I’m sure everyone studying through the current pandemic climate must be experiencing the difficulties with online learning. Adjusting to online studying was a struggle initially but we have an amazing team at AMBS who have made this process smooth and provided all the support. Things are getting better and as a cohort we are able to see each other more and have more social interactions.
Can you talk us through your life and career post-graduation?
I hope to establish my healthy nutrition company, EAT FIT in the UK and expand further. This has been challenging alongside the MBA so I am really looking forward to having more time to spend in the business and applying my skills post-graduation.
What skills have you utilised from the programme into your career?
There are many skills I have applied from the course so far into my life. For instance, we have had to work on multiple consultancy projects simultaneously which has definitely improved my organisation and communication skills. Not only that, but I’ve also directly applied some of my knowledge from our mergers module to actively merge my current company with another company which I approached.
What advice would you give to other refugees looking to leave their countries and considering studying a business degree?
I would always advice anyone to pursue their dreams and goals in life. However, as a refugee this is sometimes a lot harder, but you can use this to your advantage. The experiences as a refugee and struggles you face can humble you and teach you skills that you can never learn in a classroom. For instance, even just having a roof over your head or having a brick house rather than a mud house sounds so basic but these are the things I grew up with in Afghanistan. During every struggle in life or education you can always reflect and 99% of the time you know that things could always have been worse. This helps you to be more grateful and make the most of every opportunity presented to you.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In 5 years’ time, I hope to have established my business here in the UK and start a similar business focused on health sector back home. I would like to give back and develop my community and lift as many people out of poverty as possible. I understand the struggles faced by people, how difficult life is, and I can relate. Therefore, it is a personal objective to help as many people as possible.
DON’T MISS: MEET THE BUSINESS SCHOOL REFUGEES