Abobaker Rahmani

‘After the fall of Kabul, everything changed’

University Fund 4 min. Melinde Bussemaker

In June 2021, Abobaker Rahmani came from Afghanistan to the Netherlands full of ambition to pursue his dream of a Master’ in Finance. His plan was to return to his home country after graduation and start his own business there. But on August 15, 2021, everything changed following the fall of Kabul. “Suddenly I couldn't access the money that I needed to finish my studies.”

Abobaker grew up in Afghanistan and graduated from his Bachelor’s program of Business Administration at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul in 2021. “At the end of 2020, I began to explore opportunities abroad for Master’s programs in the field of Finance. Despite a conditional scholarship from the American Fullbright Foreign Student Program, I ultimately chose to come to the Netherlands. In addition to a higher score on the ‘social mobility’ index, the Netherlands was also recommended to me by a friend and a nephew who studied in the Netherlands already. The education is of a high quality, and in English, which is another advantage over other European universities. Moreover, the people are nice.” 

Abobaker Rahmani

I had enough money for the first semester but that was all 

Abobaker Rahmani


Photo: Maurice van den Bosch

The fall of Kabul   

After thoroughly investigating his options, Abobaker enrolled in the pre-Master’s program of Finance at Tilburg University. “Three months before I was due to start, I flew to the Netherlands for my GMAT exam. In the meantime, I tried to arrange my financial matters. I applied for a Dutch bank account and found a room. But suddenly my situation changed completely: the Taliban took over power in Afghanistan and Kabul fell. I had not managed to open a Dutch bank account yet and in Afghanistan, all bank accounts were frozen. I had enough money for the first semester but that was all. And so I found myself in a completely different situation in a strange country.”  


“I contacted the Dean of Students and told them about my situation,” he continues. “They listened to me and were very constructive. With my student visa, I was allowed to work for a maximum of 16 hours a week. I worked nights for a temping agency, but that was not enough to live on and pay for my studies. I felt so powerless; I wanted to work more, but I could not legally do so. After I had finished the pre-Master’s, I went to work as a freelance delivery man. Unfortunately, that did not earn me enough either. I would often lie in my room worrying about ways to improve my situation.”  

The University Fund  

Fortunately, the University Fund provided the answer. Abobaker: “The university’s Dean of Students pointed out the possibility of applying for a scholarship. It was a great relief when a scholarship was granted to me. It took away the stress and there was more room to focus on my studies and to think of a plan B. I decided to apply for asylum in the Netherlands for something to fall back on after my studies.” 

Applying for asylum in Ter Apel   

Abobaker applied for asylum at the moment that the refugee reception and application center in Ter Apel is so overcrowded that the situation is in the news every day. “I thought it was awful there. Not so much for myself, I could manage, but for other people, families with children. After a few days, I was allowed to wait at home pending the outcome of my application. My status was granted relatively quickly because of the seizure of power in Afghanistan and the fact that I had the right papers.” 

My father always says that you mustn’t wait to start something until the circumstances are right but to build on the problems that present themselves

Internship at ASML  

In August, Abobaker started his Finance Master’s, in December he started as an intern at ASML. “That I was accepted was simply wonderful. I had a busy life, combining a full-time internship with a Master’s, but fortunately I have the self-discipline for independent study at night. My father always says that you mustn’t wait to start something until the circumstances are right but to build on the problems that present themselves. That is what I do. It isn’t the easiest thing to do, but I am learning a lot from this experience, about life, about myself, and about the world.” 

Grateful for the trust 

“I am so grateful for the financial help from the University Fund. But even more important is the trust they placed in me that I could finish my studies. Because it is all about trust. I am also grateful for the chance given me by ASML. I hope to finish my Master’s soon. ASML has offered me a job. I want to start my own business besides that. In that way I hope to buy my own home in a year’s time and so work towards more security.” 

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Date of publication: 3 May 2023