As a young boy growing up in Morocco, Hicham El Bariqi never dreamed of setting foot in America, much less earning his MBA here. But when presented with the rarest of opportunities, he grabbed hold and didn’t look back.
Hicham won a spot in the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery, which provides a limited number of visas each year for people from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.
“When I became eligible, a good friend encouraged me to apply,” he said. “My birthday is July 4th, so I joked to him that the U.S. wasn’t going to turn me down. Sure enough, a year later, I got the letter saying I was a winner.”
His grandparents, who raised him, gave him a one-way plane ticket to America. He packed his bags and flew to Raleigh to move in with a family friend. Within five years, he became a U.S. citizen.
Hicham taught himself English and enrolled in ESL classes at a local high school. He then earned an associate’s degree from Wake Technical Community College and enrolled at North Carolina Central University to pursue a career in law.
But he quickly realized that business was his calling.
“My background is in hospitality, and I had worked for Hilton in Morocco as a sales manager,” Hicham said. “While studying at NCCU, I was a manager at the airport Hilton, and that job helped me realize that business is something I’m good at and passionate about.”
He discovered the Meredith MBA program and enrolled in fall 2015.
“I chose Meredith for the quality of the professors, the small classes, and the accreditation,” he said. “I’m very big on building relationships with my professors, and by the end of my first semester, I already had a mentor, Dr. Jane Barnes. Everyone here has been so generous and so helpful.”
Hicham traveled with other MBA students to China during the summer of 2016 (an experience he describes in one word as “amazing”) and continued his studies through the summer. He’s on an accelerated track to graduate from the MBA program by May 2017.
In addition to his studies and full-time job, he also is a U.S. Soccer Federation referee who calls high school, college, and professional matches in North Carolina.
“In Morocco, soccer is like a religion,” he said. “My grandfather was a trainer for a professional team there, and I would love to become a professional FIFA referee. It’s a great leadership opportunity and comes with a lot of responsibility. It will take a lot of hard work and intense physical training, but it is a dream that I will never stop chasing.”
After graduation, he hopes to land a job in the Raleigh area. For now though, Hicham is focused on walking across the stage at commencement.
He wants to be able to fly his grandparents here for the occasion – to see firsthand that his enormous leap paid off.
“On the plane coming here all those years ago, there were so many scenarios going through my mind,” he said. “I’m leaving my family and my friends behind, why am I doing this? But I know I’m on a one-way road to success and I cannot look back. Every time I was broken down – because it wasn’t an easy path – I stood back up and became even stronger.”