I am Faycal Rajab, I am from Lebanon and I am one of the 2019 MSR Scholars. I completed a Master´s degree in Economics of Public Policy at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics (BGSE). Through the MSR scholarship I have been able to continue my studies in the Netherlands and follow a Master’s programme in Spatial, Transport and Environmental Economics at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

The past academic year has been an experience like no other. It has been full of amazing adventures and knowledge gain, even though the coronavirus and the events in my home country negatively affected my year. 

From an academic point of view, with the help of the many intellectual professors in the university, I was able to deepen my knowledge in the urban and transport economic issues in the world. I developed and acquired skills that are crucial for the spatial development of Lebanon. While writing my thesis, I gained an ability of self-dependance and further developed my research competences. Furthermore, my thesis topic was about traffic congestion in Lebanon, consequently I was able to link the knowledge gained in the Netherlands to the problems of my home country.  In addition, in my program there were people from all around the world such as Mexico, Jordan, Indonesia… We had very interesting conversations about the different urban issues our countries face and what is our approach to solve them 

My social life in the Netherlands got divided in two parts, one pre-corona and one during-corona. In the first part of my year, I made amazing friends from all around the world. Through our cultural differences, we were able to learn a lot from each other. I was able to present my country, that is usually unknown to foreigners, and in return I gained knowledge of different countries history and culture. We travelled together to different parts of the Netherlands, learning about the local culture of the country. In addition, we travelled together to other countries in Europe such as Belgium and the Czech Republic.  In this period of time, I’ve had so much fun and learnt a lot.  

In the corona period, through the lockdown, I got to know my flatmates better. They are also from different parts of the world such as Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Russia… Together we supported each other to overcome these difficult times. We started hanging out much more in the kitchen as the place become an escape from loneliness and frustration of the situation. We started creating our own boardgames that we play during the weekends and have our own parties. At a certain point, when the corona cases were very low, we started creating treasure hunts, at first in the building then across the city. In addition, during this lockdown, I developed my cooking skills, especially in the Lebanese cuisine mainly with the help of my mother. In my last day in the Netherlands, I cooked a Lebanese dinner for my flatmates and made for them a presentation on the history and culture of Lebanon.  

In the end, even with the unfortunate circumstances of the years, I was able to develop both my academic and cooking skills. In addition, I have made lifelong friends and connections from all across the world.