My name is Ammar, it means „alive“ and this is how I feel! Everyday, I am thankful to live a safe and peaceful life, one where I am able to chase my dreams, learn, work hard and be educated. I am 27-years-old and I have been studying Computer Sciences with Kiron for almost two years now. Next to my studies with Kiron I work at the Bertelsmann Foundation, doing a vocational training in informatics. Sometimes I feel like I am living a second life. I used to study Business in Damascus and had my own repair shop before my whole life was turned upside down. In the cold winter of 2012, I had to leave my home. My journey, though I didn’t know it at the time, would eventually lead me to this new life I proudly call mine. Before arriving in Germany in 2015, I was in Egypt for three years, where I worked as an accountant in Kairo. I couldn’t afford university in Kairo but was determined to studying again, so I took another chance by leaving for Germany! I had always been passionate about informatics. For me, it is all about solving problems and making people smile. Whenever people had problems with their computers, I was always the first to help and when the problem was solved, I carried their smiles home with me. It always brought me so much joy to be able to help others and to be this informatic hero who solves problems. I am interested in hard- and software, and how everything functions together as one big magic network. When I was 16-years-old, I placed an advert in a small paper in Damascus, offering support for people with IT problems. So many people needed my help, so I started helping everyone I knew. I remember my first client. It was a wise 80-year-old Syrian man who needed help installing his Office program. For me it was just a few clicks, but for him it meant the world. He had such a big smile on his face and payed me with a lot of chocolate – I will never forget this day. It was in this moment that I realized the magic of informatics and it’s power of making people smile. It was because of this man, and countless others like him, that I opened my repair shop in Damascus back in the day, and why I study Computer Science with Kiron and work in IT at Bertelsmann now. I am on the never-ending journey of discovering the mystery logic of the tech world, and I love it.
I found out about Kiron through my language school in Bielefeld. One seemingly normal day I saw a blue poster, with the name “Kiron Open Higher Education for Refugees” taped to the wall. I could not believe my eyes. A digital place where I could continue studying for free? It was too good to be true! I signed up immediately and was thrilled to finally have the chance to learn more about something I love so much. Kiron is the best thing that could have happened to me. I got to meet so many people who I now call my friends and became part of the Kiron Family. Attending several study weekends, where I got in touch with so many other students exactly like me, I realized how much we had in common and how we all were crazy about computers. I finally felt at home again! Even though most of my friends were sprawled across Germany, we were connected and studied together.
Also, the German courses through the Kiron Language School really helped me improve my language skills. Language has been one of the greatest obstacles for me since my arrival in Germany. I simple could not talk to people, even in the supermarkets, I felt paralyzed since I could not talk to anyone and not even tell the saleswomen what I was looking for. I find German to be such a complicated yet also funny language. For example, the slight difference between “schön” (beautiful) and “schon” (already) are so amusing to me. In Arabic you do not use umlauts, so to me, they sound so similar yet mean completely different things. It was really hard in the beginning, but I decided either I would really learn the language, or I would have to leave. I tried to speak German wherever I went – and in Bielefeld, not like other parts in Germany, I was not treated badly because I was a foreigner. This is why Bielefeld for me really feels like home. Here I have friends, and I have the feeling of being at home. Because of this, I also helped to create the Facebook page called “Bielefeld.now” with my friend, the founder and fellow Kiron student Ehab. I wanted to encourage and help other Arabic speaking refugees living in Bielefeld. So I worked as an editor, and began translating all the happenings of Bielefeld so others like myself could learn and understand all the news and events in the city and throughout Germany. We’ve gotten positive feedback from people who only speak Arabic saying how much it has helped them get to know their way around Bielefeld. There are so many elements to Bielefeld.now…there is everything from city events, news articles and general updates all the way to the details of Arabic speaking doctors and pharmacies throughout the city. I once had the same lost feeling so many others have today, so I truly hope my page can help them to feel more at home.
In other cities, I often feel like a foreigner. I respect that everyone has their own opinion and the right to feel, think and say whatever they want. However, as a refugee, I always wanted to show that not all foreigners are bad. We foreigners and refugees are just like the Germans and everyone else in the world, there are good and bad people. We are hardworking, we pay taxes, we work and help the elderly. Germany needs our support just as much as we need it, and when the time comes, we will be there. Germans are smart, and for those who do not already, they will see that after all, we are all humans and we are all the same. Just like the Grundgesetz says: Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar. Sie zu achten und zu schützen ist Verpflichtung aller staatlichenGewalt. I believe, we should not give up and let ourselves be labeled. So I advise all refugees to learn German, to not seek illegal work, but to get in touch with people and build friendships. Because for me, through learning German and making new friends, at last I have arrived and no longer feel like a foreigner – I am a friend now. Today, I go mountain biking my neighbor and friend, Jochen every week. I love cycling. In Syria, I used to cycle to work. Today, I ride my bike everywhere I go. It gives me a sense of freedom. This free feeling is important to me, especially because of my busy schedule. On Mondays, I meet my Arabic speaking friends, which allows me to be in touch with my mother tongue and my home in some kind of way. Tuesdays nights, I study with Kiron and do my online course sessions. On Wednesdays, I participate in social activities of the Rotaract Club or Unicef. It’s great, we do a lot of activities together, we help out in children’s homes or with social projects and initiatives in the city. And on Thursdays, I have my driving classes. Regardless how busy I am sometimes, I try to learn as much as I can every day, improve my German and be good at my job. I even tried salmon for the first time in Germany which I had never had before and I loved it! Like my love for salmon, I am always open to trying new things and learning, because if I was not, I may never have found my new love for salmon. And now, I eat salmon all the time!
Getting to know new things and learning truly is a passion I could not live as happily without. Through my Kiron Computer Science courses, I learned to juggle Java as well as other programming tricks, all of which has been great! But I wanted to study at a real university again, so I was happy to transfer to the University of Bielefeld to study Mathematics. Before I knew it, a nice professor at the university offered to help me get an internship with Bertelsmann. Again, I felt so lucky. I became part of a big project for two months and I was very surprised to see how much I was allowed to do by myself. Here I was, just a small intern in charge of my own big projects. At first, I had been afraid that my German would not be good enough and that I would be thought of as the Ausländer. But everyone was so friendly and I was welcomed with open arms. Hence, I lost my fear and felt safe. Then they offered me the opportunity to start a vocational training and I could not believe it! But I knew I could not handle my studies with Kiron, working at Bertelsmann and my classes at Bielefeld University all at the same time. So, I decided to focus on my work and my online studies. I believe in this decision and feel lucky to have such opportunities and decisions to make. It was during a funny situation at work that I realized I had truly arrived in Germany. When I was carefully separated my waste, a Turkish employee came up to me, laughed and said: “You are truly German!”. I do not think that I can call myself German yet, but I do feel at home and alive, just like my name “Ammar” has always promised me!
Interview by Flora Roenneberg // #Education4Integration campaign, sponsored by H&M Foundation