I don’t miss home; I just miss my family. I’m Wadhaa and it is because of all the things I have seen and experiences that I want to help make the world we live in a better place. I was born and raised in Iraq, but even as I child I always knew I didn’t belong there – my thoughts, beliefs and later my actions, simply didn’t fit the bill. I left home in 2015, and even though I speak with my family back home often, I still miss my parents and all eight of my siblings dearly. It still feels wrong saying ‘six siblings’ … I used to say ‘eight’. It was after the death of two of my brothers that I knew it was time for me to flee Iraq. I watched them both die, one in the hospital and the other in my arms – the pain of their death still haunts me. Like me, they fought for what they believed in despite what it meant for their safety. But unlike them, it was only I and one brother who escaped. And for exactly that reason, for their deaths and my survival, I know I am meant to do something important and to work toward something better.

Growing up, my father always encouraged us to learn. Whether it was a subject that interested us or not, throughout our childhood we tried to learn. Because of him, I already have a diploma degree in technical medicine and a bachelor in law. But my true passion lies in law. Before leaving Iraq, I was working for an NGO in the legal human rights sector. I loved what I was doing, and all I want is to find a way to do it again. But things are different in Germany. Here, I am a refugee. I don’t have the right paperwork, qualifications and education. Despite my hurdles, I have still managed to find a way to do my part. I am employed (despite not liking my job), I am a volunteer for Amnesty International, and most importantly, I am a student. Since my arrival in Germany, it has been a constant learning process – both in and out of the classroom. To be fair, most of studies have focused on learning English and German. But thanks to the encouragement I have received throughout my life, I have been persistent in my studies. In my opinion, we have to learn the culture, the origin of life, religions, philosophy and most importantly, we have to learn how to love each other, not just the language to work and to earn a living.

I live in Hessen now, and I love it here. The people are so helpful and kind. My neighbors have become my friends, and my neighborhood has become my support system. Last month, I turned 31, and they organized me a big birthday party – live music, endless food, birthday sweets and all! I am so lucky to be here. My new friends have helped me in my new life in more ways than I can say. From helping me with German bureaucracy and inviting me into their culture, to encouraging me to travel and even informing me about Kiron. Online AND free education? I never knew how grateful I would be for something so seemingly simple! Of course, due to my new love of languages, my favorite part about Kiron are the language courses. That, and the political science courses, because with these, I know I am one step closer to being able to pursue a law degree.

I truly believe it is crucial for all refugees to learn the European system. The most beautiful part about education in Europe is perhaps that it is not biased, not taught through religion and does not force a belief onto its pupils. For exactly this, I was so intrigued by my Introduction to Political Science course taught by Saylor Academy. Despite linguistic barriers, the video lectures provided everything I could have needed. With clear explanations and simple and easy-to-follow teaching style – not to mention being able to pause and rewind as needed – I really got inspired! I know the road ahead of me is long, but I no longer feel that I am still the ‘new guy’ in Germany. My German is better, I’m starting to learn European law, I feel comfortable and welcomed by my new home, and I even attended and spoke at a conference with Kiron! If not for myself, I do it for my assassinated brothers, my family in Iraq and for all the other refugees trying to build a new life. I want to study law, so that I can work in human rights and protect and aid those who can not do it for themselves and to prevent the way of thinking and education that leads to war and tragedy. Every day I wake up knowing I am one step closer to achieving my dream.  

Interview by Alisha Merkle