My name is Sarah, and while some may look at me as a female refugee from Syria, I see myself as a shy 24-year-old striving to gain confidence in my everyday actions. I left my hometown nearly two years ago. Before coming to Germany, I was in India for three months waiting for my visa process to be finished. While my time in India was brief, I found it very difficult. I was in a group of five women, but I never really felt safe. Walking the streets alone was out of the question, and affordable housing was not livable. I ended up in an expensive hotel, staying in at night and taking taxis when I needed to go somewhere. This was not a life for me. Finally, after my seemingly endless time in India I was able to make my way to Berlin, Germany, to join my husband who I had been apart from for nearly two years. While it remains a work in progress, I immediately felt at home in Germany.

Being born and raised in Damascus, Syria, taught me the beauty of a multicultural community. I loved being surrounded by people of various cultures, different religions and alternative perspectives. People would walk the tightly wound and colorful streets of Damascus with smiles on their faces, greeting neighbors, friends and strangers. While I know this sense of community, this friendliness and warmth exists elsewhere, I miss the familiarity of my hometown. It is now more than one and half years since I left, and while I hold Syria dear to my heart, I have also found a sense of closeness and comfort in Germany. Even as a child, before the crisis in Syria, I always wanted to visit Germany. In Berlin’s diverse people and different neighborhoods, I was able to get a sense of Damascus again. It took some time to find a suitable place to live, but I am now in a small apartment with my husband, and while I am happy, the neighborhood feels a bit cold and distant. The people do not smile in the streets and make small talk at the shops like they did in my hometown, but none the less, I am comfortable and I am safe.

I don’t have a lot of new relationships and friends in Germany. The people are all very kind but everyone seems so busy. It is difficult to start over and find the people you are looking for and can connect with. I met one of my few friends, also a refugee, at Kiron. It is nice to have her support as we have many things in common. Like Germany, the people at Kiron are very kind and generous. I have been studying at Kiron on-and-off for 18 months. And time and time again, when I go to Kiron i don’t have to have anxiety or fear. It’s not like a job center or official office. You go to Kiron and the people want to help you and they will help you in anyway they can. I am taking my time with studies at Kiron, because I think it is important for me to better my English and German first so that I can fully comprehend and do better in my courses later on.

Through my studies, my efforts to meet new people and learn new languages, I feel tired sometimes. But even though I am tired I know I have to be smarter. My German and English is improving, which has helped me to better integrate into my new life. I have also become a lot more confident speaking with others – not an easy task for me in my mother tongue let alone in a foreign language. Despite always being shy, I have always found pleasure in giving to others. Even as a child, I always wanted to help people. I was a really good teacher and I enjoyed it. Helping my friends and siblings in school gave me a sense of joy, like I was able to do good with a greater purpose than to simply reward myself. Of course, I also have my own dreams and goals – to learn five languages, to become a professor at a university and help enable my future children to become better and smarter than me. But more importantly, I have set goals that are bigger than me. I was not born for nothing. I was created to do something good for the earth and the humanity.

Adapting to a new life is not easy, but with the right goals, a good support system and the determination to fulfill not only your own purpose but those greater than yourself – I believe that anything is possible. I focus on the present so that I can build a better tomorrow. Whether I one day return to Syria or decide to stay in Germany, I want to have accomplished something to be proud of, something my family can be proud of. As long as we keep trying to pursue both our little and big goals, the future, whether for ourselves or for our children will be better. In my heart, I truly believe that I have a purpose in life and that I have two homes – Syria and Germany. I am thankful to Germany for all that it has offered me, and hope one day to return the favor.