There were many times when I felt like giving up, but determination is paramount to achieving your goals.
Riyadh Alhabshan joined the legal team of Siemens in Saudi Arabia last year, a top post for a young corporate lawyer. His role is to help manage the legal risks of the multinational’s booming operations in the Kingdom.
He had graduated with a Master in International Law in 2011. Yet when he stepped off the plane from Riyadh (the capital city with which he shares his name) to begin his studies in Sydney in 2008, he faced a massive challenge: he could barely understand, let alone speak, a single word of English.
“It was shocking and a little bit scary at the beginning,” he says. It was also the first time in his life - other than when he was a baby in America - that he’d travelled outside his home country and experienced another culture.
He joined other international masters students at UTS Insearch for classes that not only helped him learn English, but also introduced him to the Australian way of life and encouraged him to communicate and collaborate widely.
A year later, he was enrolled in a Master of International Law degree at UTS, attending court hearings, writing court reports, conducting research into case law and giving verbal presentations of his ideas and arguments to lecturers and classmates.
“Everyone was super-friendly and helpful,” he said. “I gained a lot of knowledge and met a lot of people. I made friends with people from all over the globe, different countries and backgrounds, which is really amazing. That was an education within an education. It was really invigorating!”
Riyadh says his main way of coping with the new culture, learning the language and studying, was to interact and collaborate with everyone, especially other students.
But he readily admits that he didn’t always find it easy. With law, students have to read a lot. “That can be one of the boring things about it, and you can find yourself saying ‘I’m kind of lost here – I don’t want to continue. It’s too much.’”
But “determination is paramount if you want to achieve your goals, and you just get through it in time,” he says. His advice to other prospective students is to embrace the uncertainty “because that’s where the best lessons are.”
After almost five years working for local companies Saudi Telecom Company and Al Rajhi Bank, Riyadh’s now looking forward to a burgeoning career with Siemens.
“I like this organisation,” he says. “It gives me a variety of work. It’s diverse and it has businesses all over the globe, so maybe in ten years time I’ll be someplace else but in a more senior position.”