My friend Lounis, an Algerian who changed his life in a matter of few years.
You want to talk about all the impromptu trips you’ve done? Try travelling across the world, all alone, having sat on the plane for the first time in your life. The thoughts of having never left the country throughout his life, the prospect of meeting people from other nationalities apart from his own countrymen was terrifying and shook every bone in the body. Yet, this man took that step ahead, knowing not what was ahead, hoping to forget the bad memories of the past and collecting souvenirs of the great past. An engineering student was about to pursue a business degree at S P Jain School of Global management, of which he knew nothing.
Lounis Boukhezzar grew up on the mountains in the village of Bouhanza in the Kabyle province of Algeria. He started out as an engineering student, participating in college clubs and events as much as possible to quench his thirst for knowledge. While browsing one fine day on Facebook he saw an advert for BBA program and took it to be too good to be true. He got down to knowing more about the program and learnt that the deadline to apply was in five days. Now being an engineering student and wanting to apply for a business degree was out of the blue, yet he went for it on the last day of the deadline.
A higher manifestation of curiosity to learn something new, to experience the unknown, to understand and see the world beyond his own country and people, the possibility of taking his first flight ever to a foreign country, the thought of meeting so many international people from different backgrounds, with different cultures he hadn’t even possibly known or read about. But his first contact with the college, cleared away all inhibitions he had and gave him a ray of hope to look forward to.
His first hurdle, though, was a Skype interview with Prof. Alesa Lightbourne, the dean of the college. Nerviness was at its hilt for Lounis at this time, but what came next blew his mind. Prof. Alesa started the interview speaking in Arabic, which put him to immediate comfort as he wasn’t expecting a non-native Arab to ever speak his language with such fluency. He was told that he was the first ever Arab to apply for the program since its inception. This boosted his self confidence and Prof. Alesa impressed him to a point where he says, “The Skype interview was probably one of the biggest influencing moments in shaping of my life.”
With no surprises, he was selected for the curriculum owing to his personal skills and learning so far in his career. As the adage goes, “nothing great, comes easy,” even this had its fair share of troubles before he made it possible. Lounis had one month before he was to report for his first day at a business school, he faced issues with the banking system denying him approval, his application for student visa being rejected, gets a tourist visa instead in the midst of his exams, and within 24 hours leaves his country to travel to Singapore to attend to his dreams of international learning and exposure.
I met Lounis on his first day of arrival and vividly remember the occurrence as if it were yesterday. Me and my friends met him at the social café in the Singapore campus and were wondering as to who he was, as we had not seen him on campus for the past one week. Lounis told us that he had just arrived and was looking to buy some Halal food, all this while looking concerned and feeling introverted. Now, at that point of time, we did not know that this man standing in front of us was meeting foreigners for the first time in 21 years of his life. On that day, we also were unaware that we just made a friend of a lifetime.
He found an accommodation where the landlord asked him to teach French to her language club in return he gets discount on rent.
Lounis was taking in all the experiences of Singapore and all the things the business
First part-time job? Selling Apple computers in Singapore
school had to offer to him, wasting as little of his time possible. Attended events and exhibitions as much as possible, to satiate his passion for IT and entrepreneurship. While visiting an IT mall one day finds out opportunities to apply for work and gives out resumes to companies without knowing not the background of those companies. A few days later gets contacted from an Apple reseller for a trial week, of which Lounis had zero experience. Within one week at the job, learnt everything possibly he could learn and gets his first real job.
Singapore, turned out to be very convenient for him being a small country for someone who easily gets lost in the hustle and bustle of city life. But, convenience was not something Lounis was after in this journey.
Lounis took another unexpected turn in his life when he opted to go for France for exchange. While others had returned back from their summer vacations spent at their home, Lounis could not fly back to Algeria for financial and National Service concerns. So, he was hoping going to France would at-least somehow give him a chance to meet his brother and some other friends and family.
Starting off the new year on the flight to Dubai, a new country yet hoping for some familiarity in culture. Only to find that Dubai was a very diverse country in terms of its people and a relatively very open society than he was ever accustomed to. Some of the happiest memories of his life comes off from Dubai, as he had the opportunity to visit an amusement park, camping overnight in desert being his best experience ever as he cherishes the moments of being with friends and yet enjoying the privacy to reflect on his thoughts and to think about himself, “refuel on life,” is the term he uses while describing the whole experience. While interning in Dubai, he learnt about the e-commerce industry, start-up companies, and also got an opportunity to interact with the Algerian communities set in Dubai.
Lounis hadn’t met his parents for two years now and so he decided to call for his parents to visit him for a couple of days. The journey they made to Dubai was their first flight abroad.
Before coming to Sydney, Lounis was hoping for an easy life in terms of finding jobs for he had to support himself financially. But things did not pan out the way he had expected. After failing to find a job for the first four months, he had reached a dead end, he had lost focus on his studies, he had no job, the worry of paying his rent and fees was always looming upon him.
Lounis’ high-tech skills have helped him find part-time jobs and internships in Sydney.
The most crucial turning point of his life came during one of the mid-term breaks in December. All the cards were against him and he hadn’t yet found a single job; he turned to a new game altogether. The thought of doing something new struck him and learnt to build websites on WordPress for the next three weeks without even stepping out of his house and without a break. And things dramatically changed after this point of time.
Found jobs at a publishing company through a professor, where he had to manage the whole content of the website, manage the amazon page of the publishing company with a small sum of money to cover his daily expenses. After one month, the corporate managers got a job for him as an SEO intern for a Marketing boutique in Sydney (search engine optimisation); this internship entailed as how to improve your ranking on google search engine; now this job supposed to be taken by one of the senior graduates, who gave it up due to the high technicalities required for the job.
Now this job turned out to be something he really liked to do, it was all about looking at metrics, analysing keywords to improve the website traffic, all of this while still working at the publishing company on the side.
Following that, Lounis worked on cleaning cars, gardening, painting, or any kind of labor work he could find on Gumtree, in order to pay all his rent and fees. On one of those jobs, playing a technician this time he had earned 300$ to fix computers and iPads, which got his tears rolling down the cheek as he had never expected to earn this much out a job. Those weren’t just momentary tears of happiness as they blossomed into him starting his own business of repairing computers.
The workload at the marketing company had increased along with the pay, as he was now doing web project management and was handling the clients and the developers for building websites. Its not that he doesn’t find difficulties, in fact he gets stuck a million times because of his small mistakes but kept going, and Lounis says,
“What inspires me is to keep learning and keep getting stuck at things, and I love it when things go wrong- because I get excited how I am going to solve it and how the story of this problem is going to end. As I know things happen for a reason. Everyone has their own story but I love my story, I get inspired from it; I don’t have a lot of resources to tackle my problem with, but when its solved, I look back and see that whatever I have, I’ve made the most of it.” – Lounis Boukhezzar
Sydney has so far been the best to travel around and to meet great people as he has spent more time here than previously, to going from being jobless for months to working on odd jobs and to now having kind of an own company and doing what he loves so passionately, is a dream come true.
I do not think there is one person who doesn’t love him for being the person he is. He is fondly known as ‘Habib’ (love) across the batches. Today the inhibited Lounis we knew is gone and a strong-minded, confident individual who always has a smile on his face and a sense of warmth in his being stands in his place.
Lounis just recently got an approval from the Algerian authorities to go back to Algeria after four long years and him being a classmate has inspired me deeply to follow my dreams and break all the inhibitions I carry, and I hope through this article you get out of that comfort zone and follow your passion too.
The man got in with a hope to survive and is now leaving with a spirit to win, and I hope we can find our own story to inspire others too. Go beyond the imaginary finishing line, abundance awaits.