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“I now find high grades less important”

“I now find high grades less important”

Photographer:Fotograaf:

Joey Roberts

Name: Ouiam Moussati (22, Veldhoven) * In daily life: third-year student of Medicine and president of the Muslim Student Association Nour * Lives in: Maastricht * Civil status: single

What did you want to be when you were younger? A writer, just like Carry Slee. I read all her books as a young child. When I was older, I wanted to be a teacher. I like explaining things. I always worked for high grades; I like working hard. I got that from my parents. They never needed to be strict about homework. My father is an electrical engineer and my mother takes care of the house. It was only since secondary school that I wanted to become a doctor. I now find high grades less important. I prefer to develop myself in other areas. For example, with the Maastricht Islamic student association Nour, with the international medical student association IFMSA, with the university as a year representative, and with my job at the doctor’s surgery. I answer the phone at the triage centre. When people phone in, I assess how urgent it is.

What do you spend most of your money on? Clothes. A couple of weeks ago, the delivery guy asked if I had bought all of Zara’s stock. How much I spend on average is hard to say. Sometimes three hundred euro, then nothing for a while. I don’t let COVID-19 stop me. You can find plenty online. I do occasionally suffer from lack of space in my closet in my room in Maastricht. I take a large part of what I have to my parents in Eindhoven, but I also like giving things away sometimes. That feeling after a clear-out is great.

My COVID-19 hobby. Walking. I never did that before the pandemic. I went to the gym a lot back then. During the first lockdown, I mainly went into the city. These days, it’s nature. The area behind the government building is my favourite at the moment. I usually walk alone. It is a way to structure my thoughts and my day. I usually start and end my day with a walk. The longer this COVID-19 period lasts, the more trouble I am having with it. I especially miss the contact with fellow students. Two weeks ago, I had a class at the university again for the first time in a long while. That was really nice. 

Do you ever pray? Five times a day. That is very important to me. My religion ‘demands’ it, but I don’t see it as a requirement. It makes me calm. Problems seem less great after prayers. My faith is part of my identity. It is not always easy being a Muslim. I am sometimes called to account for things that I haven’t done. And at my old job at the Albert Heijn, someone didn’t want me to serve them because I was wearing a headscarf. That is painful, but I wouldn’t remove it just because of that. That is giving in to other people’s negativity. I try not to take it personally. Someone who knows me would not say that.

I invest a lot of time in: MSA Nour. I am the president this year. Last year, I was the PR manager and the year before that I was involved in its founding. It started just before Ramadan in 2019. I wanted to organise an iftar with a group of people, a meal after sunset during Ramadan, in a hall in Wittevrouwenveld. Unexpectedly, a hundred people showed up, including many students. That is how we came by the idea. With traditional student associations, the focus is on alcohol and going out. We don’t do that. Because of COVID-19 our social activities so far have been mainly online or have been held in the park. We also organise discussion events with speakers. Recently, for example, there was a discussion about women in the academic world.
At the same time, MSA Nour is a body that represents Muslim students. Things we are working on include getting a space for prayer in the city centre. We welcome everyone. We feel that it is very important that Muslims and non-Muslims come in contact with each other. We have good contact with Lux Ad Mosam, the Christian student association in Maastricht. Our only condition for becoming a member is that you are a student. We currently have eighty members.

My great love. I am not thinking about that at all. I first want to work on my career. But eventually I do want a large, loving and close-knit family. That is how I grew up. I have two sisters who are nineteen and thirteen and a brother who is four. He jumps into my arms when I get home on Fridays. It is always so cosy, always someone to hang out with. That is why I found it so difficult to get a room in Maastricht. But I had to. For the first half year of my study, I travelled to and from Eindhoven and that was way too much. My parents also found it difficult when I left. I have a really strong connection with them. When I have to make major decisions, I ask them for advice first. I don’t always act on it, but I feel it is important to know how they feel about matters. For example, about the fact that I want to take six months off after my bachelor’s. They felt that this was a good idea.

What I never wish to experience again. The sorrow I felt when my grandfather suddenly died eight years ago. Because of that, I have a tremendous fear of losing loved ones. I was his first grandchild; we had a special bond. My religion helped me deal with the painful sadness. When I pray to Allah, I feel like someone hears and understands me. Also, the idea that my grandfather is in the hereafter gives me comfort.

My favourite holiday destination: I haven’t travelled much, but if I have to choose one, then Morocco. That is where my family is from and it is such a beautiful and multifaceted country. Large cities and wonderful culture, with so much hospitality and delicious food. I like traditional couscous most of all. My mother makes that a lot at home. We don’t go there every year. I don’t have any close relatives living there.

Nobody at the UM knows that I… am absolutely not serious all the time. That is how I come across to most people. They think that I am an exemplary student who attends all the lectures and who is always completely on schedule, but that is not the case. I also like to make a joke now and again during meetings. It’s okay for the atmosphere to be a little informal.

Are you politically active? No, but I do feel it is important to vote and to prepare yourself for that. I watch debates, read party programmes and I do the voter’s guide. I won’t necessarily vote for a Muslim, but I will vote for someone who also represents Muslims.

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