If there’s a company you like, just send an open application – Bioclear Earth soil microbiologist

Make it in the North chats with Afnan Suleiman from Dutch innovation and consultancy company Bioclear Earth.

Afnan (1)

How did you end up in Groningen?

I’m originally Arabic but I was born in Brazil. I was doing my PhD there and completed one year of that programme in the Netherlands. After working in two different jobs in the Netherlands, I came to Groningen to work for Bioclear Earth.

How did you find the job?

I heard about Bioclear Earth from the other companies that I was working at before and I had sent them an email. By coincidence, there was also an EU project we were both working on and that’s how I then ended up at Bioclear Earth. I’ve been working here for 2.5 years now.

I'm a soil microbiologist and I'm working on different types of projects, especially EU projects. I’m analysing data, but also meeting people from different companies to show them our work.

What do you like about the job?

I like the type of projects they are working on and were working on at that time. It also wasn’t an international company back then and I wanted to learn Dutch. Like this, it was also a way for me to be able to work in the Dutch market.

As for Bioclear specifically, I think I have nice colleagues. We have nice projects and I have the opportunity to work in different fields of biology. 

What was it like integrating into the Groningen community?

I didn’t come here as a student which meant I knew no one from beforehand. One way to integrate into the community is to perform volunteer work. I also searched for people who could teach me Dutch. Two Dutch volunteers that I met are now really good friends of mine and I tried to speak Dutch with them all the time.

I think that it’s essential to speak Dutch if you want to work in the Netherlands. However, generally, you’ll get by with English. At the beginning, I heard a rumour that people in the North are not willing to speak in English but in my experience, it was the opposite.

What do you like about Groningen?

It’s not too big and not too small. So it’s kind of a medium size where I’m able to do everything. It’s also international. It’s also easy to bike around the city which I find very green. Just walking or running in nature is something I like a lot. During lunchtime at Bioclear Earth we often go for a walk in the Stadspark (city park).

What was the hardest challenge you faced?

Finding a house was a problem and was difficult. Everything else I didn’t have a problem with. I was using different websites and coincidentally came across someone who also speaks Portuguese. That’s why I was able to find a house so quickly.

What are your tips and tricks for internationals looking for a job in the Netherlands?

I think there are a lot of people who wait for a position to open up in a company or on LinkedIn. But if there’s a company that you like, my tip is to just send an open application and try your luck. Another tip is to learn Dutch. Even if it’s not perfect, it will certainly help if you’re trying to find a job.

Video by Julia Dumchenko and Daindra Utami.

The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. This article is part of Make it in the North‘s series that highlights internationals working in the North - Made it in the North.