Pots and pans crash together, a fork falls to the floor and the sizzling sound of the ventilator buzzes as I sit in the tight but cozy space I call my kitchen. My best friend Deiaa’s laugh bounces off the walls as the background music vibrates in the air. It is a normal Friday night in my small but livable WG, and like any normal Friday night, I am sharing the simple moments with a friend, some good music, and soon to be, some good food. As per usual, I’m sure we will meet up with our other friends later tonight, and hang out like always. Maybe we will even go play a round or two of billiards at the place around the corner. I love spending my time with friends, and in general, with other people. I don’t think I am very good at being alone..and when I am alone, it is almost guaranteed that music – whether from my headphones or speakers – will be on loud, drowning out any kind of silence that might allow for sad or distance memories to crawl back into my headspace. I guess you could say music is my hobby, and in many ways it is also my mood. My emotions are enhanced through music and my mood is reflected by the genre. I imagine that learning about a guy who listens to music and hangs out with friends may seem normal, but unlike so many normal guys on a normal Friday night, I have an abnormal story. My name is Soubhi, I am a 27-year-old Syrian man. I had to flee from my beloved home of Aleppo, give up everything I had, and work day and night to rebuild my chances, first in Turkey for two years, and now in Germany. For me, there is little normality in an otherwise normal Friday night in my Berlin shared apartment.
At first, living in a shared apartment in Berlin was exciting – I learned so much about new cultures and about the German language. It has been three years since that initial excitement, and now it is a normal part of my everyday life. In these ways, in the normalcy of my daily routine, I feel I belong here, that like my German flatmates, I too am a Berliner. My life in Syria was not unlike the life I live now. That is of course not including the obvious differences in situations – the politically charged war-torn nights across Syria and the constant danger of being out on the streets of Aleppo. In Syria, a Friday night would have looked very similar to the one I am having right now. I would be with friends, laughing, having fun and not worrying about the upcoming exam for university or over thinking the worries about life. This is not to say that Germany and Syria are not different, in fact I would argue exactly that. Especially in the people, people in Syria and in Germany and the interactions between them are like day and night. Here, in Berlin, everyone is so much more open-minded and social. In Aleppo it is taboo to speak about just about everything, especially politics and religion. While I often miss my mother, father and sister who are unfortunately still in Syria, I know that the consequences of returning to them at a time like now would be high. For now, I must stay in Germany. I have contact with them regularly, but it saddens me to know the danger they are remain in and that there is so little I can do to help. If the situation were to get better, I’d love to return home, to join my family and friends again, but everything is only getting worse. Anyway, now I’ve reached a point where I must stay in Germany until I’ve at least finished my studies. This is fact I must face and come to accept.
Before I left Syria, I completed my bachelors in electrical engineering. Back then everything seemed so much easier, mainly because I was studying in my mother tongue of Arabic. It took me a while to get back to focusing on my education and my future. My first year in Germany was all about trying to learn the language, the culture and the people. In many ways, it is for these early days of trying to integrate into German life that I have Kiron to thank for many of my self-considered successes. I studied with Kiron for two full semesters where I was taking a lot of language courses and refresher courses in engineering to prepare for a future masters program. I knew I would start my masters in Germany eventually, it was simply a matter of when. I even went to Kiron’s community weekend event last year where I got to participate in a lot of really interesting workshops, play some social games and get to know some of the other students and Kironistas – it was so much fun meeting so many new people! Being in Berlin, you truly have so many opportunities, and being a part of Kiron and being so close to so many of their events is one of the many advantages. While the perks of Berlin life are many, I have still faced many difficulties. Getting back on track with my studies and working towards my future was the biggest one.
I dream of the day I will find not just a good job but a great one. And I know, that in order to achieve this, I need to be well educated and prepared for the working world. Things are finally falling into place. I am currently in the second semester of my master program at Technische Universität Berlin where I am studying Biomedical Engineering. It is a bit different from my bachelors, but still in the same field. I’m learning really interesting things but still find it difficult, especially because I am doing all of my work in German. Well, at least 90 percent of my courses are in German..but that’s enough to make it extremely difficult! I still have a few semesters to go, but I can feel that my life, after a trying five years since I left home, is falling coming together with some sort of coherence, thanks to education. We live in a wide world full of endless education opportunities – you can learn from you family, from books, even yourself. I understand the value of a systemized education in regards to university degrees, but I believe that it still needs to be broader than just learning from books. There are so many things to be learned on a daily basis, all you need to do is keep your eyes open. This is my daily philosophy – to be not only open minded but to dive into every opportunity and truly learn from each little thing life has to offer you.
I have a long road ahead of me, but then I remind myself that most other 27-year-olds – regardless of their background and their struggles – have just as long of a road to travel as I do. The most important part is knowing what your goals are and figuring out how to reach them. Once you figure out what you want, you can achieve it. This would be my advice to everyone. Find your passion, learn your rhythm and be clear minded. Especially for refugees in Germany, I think it is extremely important to be adaptable. Coming to Germany is one thing, but having a life here is another. Everyone should learn the language and the culture – not just in textbooks but in real life interactions. From there on, everything is so much easier. And one day, you will find yourself sitting in your kitchen with your best friend, preparing to eat a home cooked meal as you zone out to the familiar sound of your favorite band. And in this moment, just like any other average person in the world, you will be enjoying what you have come to know as your normal Friday night, and you will be calmed by the simplicity that life has offered you.
Interview by Alisha Merkle // #Education4Integration campaign, sponsored by H&M Foundation