I first met Samah at an event promoting diversity and gender equity. She is a woman dedicated to helping make the world a better place. Luxembourg can be proud to have someone like Samah Abdel Geleel and hopefully, will soon value the experience and insights she brings.

Samah arrived two years ago with her husband for his job. “We came here for his opportunity and thought that it would be quite easy for me to also find a job,” Samah recounted. Having worked in Dubai, India and the USA, this Egyptian national most recently worked for the American University in Cairo, a highly regarded institution. She brings years of diverse experience and skills in language, higher education, media analysis and administration.

“I have an MA in public policy, I’ve worked in higher education in Egypt and around the world. Luxembourg is an international country with a high growth rate and young workforce. I thought it would be easier with my profile. I look forward to the opportunities offered here.”

Finding challenges on the market

Samah wants to work, which is important for her personally and professionally, and as a way to integrate. She’s applied for many jobs, and when I asked her about the responses she received, she reflected, “Either they see something bad or have not seen something good” in her background but misses the feedback about what is missing.

Samah questions how there are so many competent people here in Luxembourg, but not getting jobs. “It would be good to have help to learn how to get into a company. I need someone to tell me how to frame myself. I believe everybody can add value. There is a need for everyone, the question is how to overcome the hurdle.”

Given her background in public policy, she considers the effect the difficulties some expats are having getting into the labor market on the economy and image of Luxembourg overall. Her own experience and that of friends show there are sponsored activities like job fairs and ADEM support, but these unfortunately do not necessarily produce good results for qualified professionals.

“We have the courage to go abroad, but we find closed doors. Is there a better quality of workers available here or is the salary we need the problem for us?” she contemplates the challenge.

As a non-EU national, she faces higher barriers to getting a job, despite the many unfilled positions. She recalls an interview for an operations role.  “We agreed I had the interest and capacity, but they don’t have time for the work permit. It’s a Catch-22; they want you to start, but don’t allow time to get the papers.”

Helping hand in the international community

Despite the obstacles, Samah perseveres and is finding ways to be a part of Luxembourg, if not directly in the labor market. She’s applying her creativity, tenacity and good-nature to several organisations, who are glad to have her and who value her input.

She is the Secretary General for the Arabic Association for Cultural Exchange which facilitates peaceful integration through intra-cultural exchange in artistic ways between the Arab world and Europe. Samah uses her skills to organize and promote events that encourage understanding and acceptance.

She is also a citizen ambassador at the Just Arrived Ambassador Club, which welcomes newcomers and offers integration channels and intercultural experiences.

Recently, she joined the OLAI team to be a facilitator at the Journee de l’orientation, the half-day cultural orientation session for foreigners signed onto the Welcome and Integration Contract (CAI). This summer, she accompanied a group of enthusiastic Arabic-speaking participants, providing literal and figurative translation into life in Luxembourg.

In sum, Samah knows that integration into Luxembourg is indeed possible, and hopes that her work in non-traditional roles will open doors. “Connections are important. You need them, you can’t reach anywhere without them. In the Middle East it’s the same.”   Well Samah, we’re supporting you and wish that by you offering your helping hand to others, the same luck comes back to you!

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Amy Amann is a consultant, trainer and coach supporting leaders to create strong organisations and teams. A long-term expat herself, she believes in the potential for a truly diverse and open society. She is currently the Vice President of The NETWORK, advancing professional women in Luxembourg.

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Career Chats is a new feature at RTL Today focusing on careers and the labour market for expats. In this bi-weekly column, Amy Amann explores and discovers stories of what it is like for the expats here: finding a job, hiring, managing, and integrating into the professional landscape.