I understand that there are cultural differences between myself, a Syrian man, and my mostly German neighbors, but these differences should be a reason to learn from one another not a reason to build walls of hate between each other. I am Muslim, but even Muslims are normal people just trying to live normal lives – I am not the bad guy and there is no reason to be scared of me, I am a good person just trying to have a chance at life like everybody else. When I see anti-auslander demos and am in the line of fire of people rioting against people like me, it’s really hard to stay positive. If I could go home, I would. I love Syria, I miss my family, the life that I had, the friends, the job, everything. I miss the familiarity of it all and most importantly the love and comfort from home where I felt welcomed and valued for the person I am. But I find my silver lining in the responses I see of these demos (nearly every time!) because for every demo against auslanders, there are just as many supporters who rally against these demos – this gives me hope. These supporters are supporting me, my friends and my worth, and seeing these acts of kindness, feeling acceptance and love from strangers makes it all worth it, reminding me that despite the hate in the world, love is always stronger.
I am Nadeem, a 26-year-old man from Aleppo, a man who is inspired by good people, a man excited by all things informatics and technical, a man who wants to find love and get married and have kids one day, a man who believes in education and studies hard, and most importantly, a man who believes in the future. These are the things that you don’t see when you look at the color of my skin or what you don’t think of when you judge me for my religious practice, but these are things that make me human, the things that just as equally make you human. You are only as good as your values and the goodness you emit. For me, I have always been a better person when I was near my family, they are my strength and being so far from them is hardest part.
Luckily, due to modern technology I get to talk with my parents and siblings almost every day, but it has been nearly three years since I last saw them. My parents are still in Aleppo and no matter how many times they try to leave because of the war and danger, they can never get past the border. Everything is blocked and there is no way out. It pains me knowing they are not safe, but I am eased knowing that at the very least they have each other. Fortunately, I was able to leave Syria with my siblings nearly five years ago. When my brother, sister and I first left home we made our way to Turkey where we stayed together for two years. My sister works at a call center and my brother is finishing his studies. I was working at a restaurant, and while I was lucky to have a job, it simply wasn’t enough. After two years of daily restaurant routines I realized it was time to do more with myself. I wanted to go back to school, to use my brain again and to get back into the world of informatics. I found myself reminiscing about my days in Syria, when I had a good life and good job, one that I really loved! I was working as a computer technician for a great company. I even finished my Bachelor in Informatics while working and was proud of this accomplishment and eager to be working in the informatics field. In efforts to find this feeling again, I decided to leave Turkey and go to Germany. I knew this meant being separated from my siblings and being further from my parents, but I needed to follow my dreams see where the future would take me.
Although I had to put my life on hold during the five years since I left Syria, I feel I have finally reached a point where my life is falling into place again. In September it will be three years since I arrived in Germany. The first year and a half was not easy. Learning the language, navigating the bureaucratic limitations of my refugee status, and starting over yet again (and this time by myself!) was challenging. But thanks to the support of the friends I made along the way and the endless German courses that have helped make me fluent, I am piecing myself together. I live in Rostock, Germany and for the most part, I like it here. Last month I officially started my Master in Wirtschaft Informatik (Computer Science Economics) and I’m so excited! After a lot of hard work and studying, I finally finished my last three courses at Kiron that enabled me to transfer to Universität Rostock. Without those last three courses at Kiron I don’t know if this would have been possible – at least not so soon. Kiron’s online courses allowed me to take classes at my own pace, listening and watching educational videos that I found really great – especially the Coursera courses I took! Due to the partnership between Kiron and Universität Rostock the transfer process was really smooth and surprisingly fast. I’ve told just about everyone about this and have already recommended the transfer program to two of my friends in Rostock. Having access to education has truly given me another chance – a chance to be the guy I know I can be and to make something of myself again!
I am excited to be in a university atmosphere again. I’m taking interesting classes and studying with people from all around the world. It keeps things challenging and interesting. I even thought about switching my degree completely. I’ve always had this dream of becoming a pilot, I love everything about planes and airports! I know it’s not easy to be a pilot, but the thought of flying and being free of all of life’s realities on the ground is thrilling. Well who knows, as a child I never dreamed of being in Germany, let alone that I would be studying for my masters, so maybe the future will surprise me once more. For now, I want to focus on my degree so that I can finish with good grades and in good time – maybe I’ll even find a job working for an airline or airport as a computer technician or computer scientist! Or better yet, maybe I’ll start my own company together with some friends of mine, working together, having fun, providing jobs for others. It’s just an idea for now…I suppose that was life is, just a bunch of ideas until they become realities. Right now, my reality is education, and that’s a pretty great place to be.
I like to dream and think about the possibilities that the future holds. If I’m really lucky, maybe I could even go back to a safer war-free Syria one day and start my company there. I’d love to return home and be surrounded by the love and support of my family and friends. I think my parents would be proud of the me I am becoming. As a young man I find it especially difficult to be away from my family, in my culture, family is everything. I wish this is something that more people knew – that Syrians, Muslims, we are family people filled with happiness through our communities and loved ones. I just want to be happy, to be successful and to live a simple and good life without hate, judgment or racism. We are who we are, and that should be enough.
Interview by Alisha Merkle #Education4Integration campaign, sponsored by H&M Foundation