Raya Rizk

Raya standing in the University's main buildingMy name is Raya Rizk. I am from Syria and I moved to Sweden in 2016 to study a Master Programme in Information Systems at Uppsala University. Now I am working as a Software Engineer at Klarna Bank in Stockholm.

I have always had a passion for IT and wanted to extend my studies abroad after completing my Bachelor’s Degree from Damascus University in 2010. However, due to the sudden change of socio-economic conditions with the war starting in Syria back then, it was extremely difficult for any Syrian to pursue new opportunities abroad. So, I started working as a developer in a telecommunication company in Damascus and I never thought I would be given a chance to follow my dreams any time soon.

Despite many hindrances, I was persistent to accomplish my goal. In 2016, I was selected for the Swedish Institute (SI) scholarship. In order to take the most of this great opportunity, I decided to study at one of the top-ranked universities in the world. That was the main reason for me to choose Uppsala University back then. However, I found many more good reasons to live and study in Uppsala when I actually arrived there, and I was happy that it was the right choice for me. I chose to study Master Programme in Information Systems as I wanted a diverse programme that focuses on information systems, systems development, and project management.

One of the best things about studying at Uppsala University is the great support that the students get whenever needed. Everyone is willing to help in all matters, even in non-study related issues. In addition, I really enjoyed the seminars, the oppositions, and the open discussions. There is always an encouragement to develop critical thinking. Group work is also an essential part of the program, it gives an opportunity to learn from each others experiences.

My class was a group of about 20 people. We set out our journey as colleagues but we graduated as close friends. My greatest memories about the time of studies were with them and we became like a family to each other in Sweden. A family that I specially needed, as I came to Sweden alone and without having hope in life after living in a war situation for several years. However, almost everyone was trying to help me recover in their own ways which is something I highly appreciate.

Another interesting thing about studying in Uppsala is the social life and the chance to continuously meet international students and get to explore different cultures. One can bike anywhere in Uppsala and meet others in about 15-20 minutes. There is always something going on in the city at any time, whether it is a technical event, a fun activity, or one can just go to any student nation to hangout and meet new people at anytime. All are for affordable prices and sometimes for free.

During the two years of the programme, I was trying to find a balance between studying and enjoying other activities. At the same time, I was working as a teaching assistance for Bachelor and Master courses in the Information Systems program at the university. Teaching was a new experience for me, I enjoyed it and learned a lot from it too. I was also a member of the TEDxUppsalaUniversity volunteering team that worked on preparing the TEDx event in the city throughout the year. I was working as a web coordinator in the marketing team there and mainly responsible for building the website.

I was looking forward to work on my master thesis at the industry, and I got an opportunity to do that at Klarna Bank’s office in Uppsala. This landed me an interesting software development job at Klarna HQ in Stockholm after my graduation. I was eventually able to publish my master thesis paper in a journal later on with the support from both the university and the company.

If I would go back and do something differently, I would take more time to travel around and explore the Nordics. I would also spend more time with my friends there before the programme ends and everyone goes in separate paths.

My advice to everyone who is going to study Master in Information Systems is to practice programming along with the courses, if you are interested in it, as the programme is not very heavy with programming. Try to work on side projects or try to do an internship during the summer for example. In addition, try to attend different events, the technical and non-technical ones, and build a network in Sweden as this will help in finding a job there after graduation, if that is what you want. If not, attending those events can help you learn about new areas, and meeting new people is always nice! I personally liked to volunteer when it was possible. This gave me the chance to help in organising the events, get to know more people, and attend events from a different perspective.

Another advice is to start learning Swedish, if you do not speak the language. It is not a must, but it makes it easier in the job market later on if you decided to stay in Sweden. In general, try to compartmentalise your time properly so you will manage between studying, socialising, and travelling around. Take the most of your time in Uppsala both on professional and personal levels and make sure to make a lot of good memories whenever you can.

Uppsala is a beautiful city to live in. I always miss the life there. Even after moving to Stockholm, I still visit Uppsala every now and then, and it always brings a smile on my face once I arrive to the train station there and start walking in its streets.

Read more about the Master's programme in Information Systems