“Kiron has helped me to connect and build bridges, transfer to university and follow my dreams.” – Wafaa, Kiron Student
Wafaa, means a combination of joy and faith! It means achieving what you have promised. It has become much more than just my name – it is who I am and what I stand for. I want always to be joyful and I to keep my promises and follow my dreams. Maybe this is why my favorite German word is: “schaffen” – because, I believe that I can make it: Ich kann es schaffen!
I started studying with Kiron in 2015, and just recently managed to transfer to one of Kirons partner Universities: University Duisburg-Essen. Now, I am in my first semester of Business Administration, with my fully recognized Kiron course: Einführung in Betriebswirtschaftslehre– a MOOC provided by RWTH Aachen.
I grew up in Damascus. My father used to have a café in the city, even a restaurant before the war. It was very popular, everyone loved playing backgammon, drinking tea together and watching people pass by. After I had finished school, the situation had already become so difficult that we moved to Jordan where I started studying Human Resources for one year. I was happy because I had a place to study. I had left Syria in 2012, and stayed in Jordan for another three years, before my whole family decided to leave again – this time for Europe. My father had asked us. “What do you think Wafaa, should we leave?” and I immediately sad yes – even though I know the decision would mean a lot! If we would have stayed in Jordan, my brother would have had to join the army and I could have never had my education and the future that I was dreaming of. Not before long, I took off with my two brothers and sister. We made our way to Turkey. Before leaving, we took a close look at the calmness of the sea between Turkey and Greece to make sure it would be okay. Then one day, when the weather was promising and the sea seemed to have calmed just for us – we jumped on a rubber boat with 30 other people and got lucky! After arriving in Greece, we made our way through the Balkans and Austria until we finally arrived in Munich of October 2015.
I cannot describe the feeling of our arrival. We were too tired to really experience our first impression of what would become our new country. We were happy but overwhelmed and exhausted. In Munich, everyone around us was immediately put onto busses and my family and I were shifted to a camp near Dortmund. Since, my family and I spoke good English, we tried to help and translate for others at each and every step of this long and difficult journey.
I have followed my dream and finally made it to university. Being a Kiron student already shaped my identity. Kiron helped me to integrate. I owe so much to Kiron – I don’t know how to return this favor. Thanks to Kiron, I met a lot of new and important people. It helped me connect. I even met the German Chancellor! When I met Merkel, I immediately felt safe and I felt that this country is truly welcoming. Moreover, through Kiron, I improved my intercultural experiences. Suddenly, I had friends from other nationalities and I learned that there is not only one plan in the world and not just one perspective. I learned that there are many catastrophes in the world – and that I am not the only one! With gaining such new perspectives and learning about others, I changed my goals, my intellect and my personality. I am learning from others each and every day, through both education and different perspective. My friends and other students at Kiron study in different fields, this again helps us all to exchange thoughts and engage in interdisciplinary discussions – always learning more together and gaining new insights.
On my first day at University Duisburg-Essen – I felt as one of them – part of them –a real student. I felt that I had once more, gained a new identity that I can carry with me, just like my school bag. I was no longer stuck due to barriers of the German language, instead, I was able and ready to learn and get educated. I wanted to be with students who are here to think and to achieve something. Now I made it and I can. And I was finally able to appreciate myself again, rebuild my self-confidence and truly start the beginning of my future.
I am a Muslima and I wear a hijab. I am against all these people who think Islamic culture is different – and that Islamic culture does not fit German culture. From my experience, Germans do not pretend, they are really honest. Islam praises honesty and is very straightforward – just like the Germans. I don’t think being a Muslima is difficult in Germany or even at my new University. There are many Muslims at our faculty and we are able to pray and do not feel uncomfortable. I still do not get how people misunderstand Islam. I believe the problem has to do with a societal and traditional Islamic idea that clashes with modern perspectives. However, this is not related to the religion itself. Islam says that we should always learn more. The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: طلب العلم فريضة على كل مسلم” So I believe in seeking knowledge. And I tell every other women: feel worthy of always being the best educated women within your Islamic custom! This is important because it means independence. One must have a career, one must learn. We have to be an educated generation – especially in times like this. It is important to be independent whether male or female – because we are all human and we are all equal. I believe that Islam is saying exactly this. We can only learn from each other – but we have to listen! I advise refugees to try to get a job or get into university, to learn German and respect German laws and culture. And I advise the Germans to become friends with refugees and learn about their perspectives. In Germany, I learned that everyone is allowed to believe and think for him- or herself and that it is possible to have a culture, where everyone respects each other. But without education there is no civilization. Education is the key to change!
Interview by Flora Roenneberg