International business major dedicated to refugee resettlement, inspiring resilience
Ameen Alnaser’s international exchange an inflection point in his leadership story
When Ameen Alnaser first applied to the Asper School of Business in 2021, his application was declined.
“That did not stop me,” says Alnaser, intent on pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce focused on international business. He immediately started working on the problem with an academic advisor.
He describes himself as optimistic, accepting hardships but opting to see them as challenges he can overcome. “No matter the problem, I aim to understand it with an open mind and think of ways to work around it.”
The next year, Alnaser successfully reapplied to and enrolled at Asper. Already a graduate of the prestigious President’s Student Leadership program, he was a student leader driven by this optimism and his passion for international business.
Finding passion in giving back
His studies at UM began in 2020, pursuing a Bachelor of Science with hopes of going into healthcare. The hopes, it turns out, were not entirely his own. “My dad owned a dairy store in Syria. My parents knew from experience that business is not always perfect; they wanted me to have a stable job and a good life, so they encouraged me to pursue sciences.
“I tried that path. It wasn’t for me.”
He found a path that was for him through the World University Service of Canada (WUSC), a non-profit organization that helps resettle refugees in Canada through education. Alnaser himself was sponsored by the program when he was forced to leave Syria and eventually relocate to Canada as a refugee in 2018.
As president of the WUSC local committee at UM (2019-2022), Alnaser managed communications, operations and finances, all to ensure that displaced youth could access education and resettlement as he had. The enjoyment he felt volunteering had been absent from his academic efforts studying science.
For Alnaser, the Asper BComm program offered an opportunity to engage his knack for business, open more doors for his future and give back. “I want to work in international development using the skills I’m gaining at Asper to help people and give back to the community that hosted me here in Canada.”
In 2023, Alnaser explored business overseas on an international exchange term at the Manchester Metropolitan University in England.
“One major reason I pursued an international exchange was to challenge myself and prove, especially as someone lives with a disability, that I am fully capable of embarking on incredible journeys,” he says.
“As I met new people, I shared my story of living in a refugee camp in Jordan with no hope of getting out, and now, here I am, travelling the world. I started to recognize my own sense of achievement and perseverance.”
Alnaser journeyed to 11 countries across Europe and the Middle East, indulging his love for travel, connecting with locals and even finding opportunities to reunite with family he hadn’t seen in years.
After his exchange, he traveled with WUSC to Ghana for an international research seminar focused on business and sustainability. He consulted with local organizations pursuing sustainability, learning about their current challenges and offering potential solutions. He also learned about Ghana, going on experiential learning outings to national parks and historical sites. Understanding a context through these local, national and international scopes is what draws him to international business.
Alnaser’s story is international, already spanning an impressive portion of the globe, and it is by engaging with diverse perspectives, cultures and people that he continues to discover and cultivate self-acceptance.
“I’m a bilateral amputee, having lost both my legs in a fire at a very young age. My family reinforced that I was different in a good way—I’ve never looked at myself as lesser than. As a teenager, I had a cosmetic part of my prosthesis, which would mean that most people wouldn’t be able to see that I’m an amputee. After a couple of years in Canada, observing and understanding the culture, I decided to remove this cosmetic part, embracing my unique journey and proudly showcasing my prosthetic limbs as a testament to resilience and strength and a challenge to societal perceptions of disability.
“All my experiences have shaped my personality, making me more open-minded and accepting of myself. I’ve found that I’m very happy with who I am.”
The student whose Asper application was initially rejected eventually found himself this year choosing between co-op opportunities, international exchange terms, summer job offers and international research seminars, creating a path and following hopes all his own.