Faisal and his older sister, Aya were members of Minerva House and his favourite teacher was the Principal, Mrs Zund. He also has enjoyed classes under the watchful eyes of Mr Jones, Mr. Aminot, Mr Shaw, Mr Ward, Mrs Baerfuss & Mr Katz.
His favourite events during the school year were the ski trips and the House events including the Sports Day & Ski Races. It was very easy to make friends and he still counts on some today who are like family to him.
He feels that he gained many life skills whilst at school and enjoyed Monday morning assemblies and lunching at Mrs Zund’s table in the dining hall. She had very powerful words such as “Never just accept a statement or philosophy – always ask why”. He feels this has defined who he is today and as a result, he is a contrarian. He always asks why and has the yearning to understand everything which he feels helps push him to the limits and therefore has led him to an unorthodox professional background – more on that later…..
At lunchtime, students would randomly select numbered tokens to determine at which teacher’s table they would sit at. Faisal relished the days when he chose token no 2, the table of Principal, Mrs Zund. He delighted in making conversation with adults and learning good manners, whilst some students were less fond of this.
He confesses to not being the best student, saying that he was a hectic kid! Mrs Zund’s opinion was that one “wakes up” at different ages and stages. After spending 6 years at St George’s, at the end of year 12, his family moved to San Diego, California where he completed his final year of high school. Unfortunately, this meant that he was unable to graduate with his friends which remains a sad memory for him. Moving to a US high school was a big change. St George’s “bubble” of 13 pupils per class and 25 or so in his year group meant that everybody knew each other. For him, it was a massive wake-up call joining a completely different school system with 4000 students and 800 in his year.
Aged 18, after his first year of university, Faisal chose to take a gap year to launch his first business in Chicago. He had discovered that as a young adult socialising Stateside it was very different from Europe/Switzerland, e.g. aged 16 youngsters could meet up in bars for a beer or glass of wine whereas in the US, the legal age is 21. The only place he could meet with friends and study/work late in the night was at shisha bars, where under 21 were permitted. These places were open late, but were dark, dingy and not really conducive or ideal for young people. They were generally frequented by older men playing games like dominoes. Faisal saw a gap by targeting a younger age group (18-25 year old). After a successful first one, he went on to open four lounges, all close to college campuses in the Chicago area. Each was café style and played cool music and football games were shown on large TV’s. They were quite different from the traditional style of shisha lounge, and after six years, he sold the businesses.
After his year out, Faisal completed his Bachelor in Political Economy from the George Washington University in DC and graduated in 2010. Following this, he decided to travel to the Middle East and spent quality time in Saudi Arabia meeting family members and old friends. Prior to that Faisal worked in New York for a short time before moving to London to study at Imperial College for a Masters
In 2013 he spent a year in Angola where he worked for an oil and gas service provider. In October 2020 Faisal moved to Amsterdam having spent several years living again in London.
Faisal has had an eclectic background and his career has mostly been in the world of entrepreneurial start-ups leading operations. Four years ago, he joined Steward, a crowdlending platform dedicated to regenerative farms, they call it “crowdfarming”. Its goal enables farmers to raise capital through their community. So far they have supported over 30+ projects mainly in the US, but they do have a pilot project in Switzerland; a biodynamic winemaker in Valais. There are 15 employees in the company and have always been a fully remote team with members in the US, UK, New Zealand & Netherlands.
Having lived in 11 cities in 10 countries across 5 continents, Faisal is very well travelled. He states that thanks to St. George’s family like community, he has felt comfortable and feels he has fitted in wherever he lays his hat, more often than not, to get to meet up with fellow Georgentians. He recently moved to Amsterdam where he will be meeting with some fellows Georgentians Max and Steve, who he has not seen since 2004.
The advice Faisal would offer to today’s students is “Don’t worry too much about every step of the future and how you will get there”. Paraphrasing the words of Allan Watts “Life is not linear, it is not steps on a ladder that you climb, but more like music – you should dance and enjoy it while it’s being played”.
Until recently Faisal would return to Switzerland several times a year to look after his grandparents, and on his visit, he would often came back to see the school. He is impressed with the expansion and developments that have taken place in the last 15 years.
Great thanks to Faisal for his time answering our questions and his great recollections of his time at our school.