“This is one of my greatest wishes: to see many more Syrian women… be educated and independent.”
– Kiron Student, Mayssa
The Violin of Change
I am from Damascus, Syria, but unlike many Syrian women I am lucky to come from a family that has encouraged my pursuit of education, rather than a husband. My name is Mayssa, and I am a refugee empowered by my knowledge and, most importantly, I am طموح (ambitious). I left my hometown five years after the crisis began and after landing in Lithuania for some time, I finally found myself in Germany. I have lived in Berlin for about two years now. I find Berlin to be similar to my hometown in many ways, and its people to be welcoming, accepting, and helpful beyond what I could have imagined – but I continue to face daily challenges of being a refugee.
In a large part, my life has revolved around my education and my career. I’ve earned my Bachelor’s in Accounting and two Master’s degrees in Auditing and International Business and Economic Management, and have nearly nine years of work experience, mostly in private banks. When the time came, it was difficult to leave not only my family behind, but also what I consider to be my career achievements. In Berlin I remain hindered by my status: a female refugee. My degrees and certificates don’t match German standards and the language barrier – despite incessant efforts to improve my German – makes finding work difficult. Despite the hurdles, I have been lucky enough to meet other women who understand my struggle. Thanks to this new support system I found an internship and was finally given the chance to truly start my life in Germany and make something of myself.
After completing my first eight-month internship, I was fortunate enough to obtain another three-month internship, which along with my online studies at Kiron, led me to my first six-month temporary job! During a year of interning, I absorbed the German work habits by day, and studied German curriculum by night. Kiron’s courses offered me the chance not only to brush up on my accounting knowledge, but allowed me to reach a B2 level in German! I also have two good friends studying at Kiron, and even though we all study in different fields, together the three of us support one another in our academic quests. Kiron, for both the courses it offers and the support I have received from its connections, has helped give me the chance to make something with my time and for my future in Germany.
I don’t believe you are ever too old to do something. In Syria, I was learning French and taking salsa classes. Now, I’m learning German and playing the violin. Even though things have changed, I always feel positive after finishing one of my online courses, or after practicing my new hobbies. For this, I consider myself to be lucky. I have met many women refugees that think they don’t have the time to continue their studies because they have a family or other obligations. I don’t believe that to be true. I think they have the time – that everyone does – and that they should do something with it, for themselves and for their children. When they learn something it’s good for them and for their children. One of my greatest inspirations is my mother. She, like many Syrian women, was a stay-at-home mother. She never had the chances that she has given me, and I know that she is living in part through my chance. It makes me realize just how important my chance is – I’m not living my chance just for me, but for her as well. This is one of my greatest wishes: to see many more Syrian women take advantage of the chance they have, to be educated and independent, and to realize they are strong and can count on themselves.
Interview by Alisha Merkle