“All refugees are humans, and all humans are citizens of the world!” – Ahmad – Kiron Transfer Student

Ahmad’s Story

My name is Ahmad, I am 25 years old and I come from Syria. I grew up in Baniyas, my hometown along the Mediterranean Sea. I feel quite Mediterranean and I like the sunny spirit of the people at the coast. Baniyas used to be a beautiful city, with my neighbors sharing different religions and ideas and still sitting together laughing and having dinner at night. Even though you were allowed to speak your mind, it did not include certain topics such as politics or the regime. I felt that the tension between some kind of society fractions were very strong, and had been obvious for a long time – I grew up in these tensions. I knew that one day, everything was going to explode and people would fight each other. In the beginning, there were a lot of demonstrations. It was a breaking point and I, like my friends, being young and watching the world turn, wished for something for our country, something – not identical to the West – but something good and modern. Our country was frozen, living in history for a long time and we needed to step forward! But, as you can see today, this step ended up to be a very costly one. I joined the demonstrations, even though a short time after I left, I started reconsidering why I did that and wondered if it was really a good thing to do. Then things really started, and everything changed very quickly. It was obvious that this movement was not going to change anything, and it was obvious, that there was going to be a lot of blood. The demonstrations took place, but at first only in a few places. Then they began shooting people, and more and more people started going out into the streets. With this crisis rapidly picking up pace in my hometown, I had to leave and decided to go to Turkey to live with my uncle.

After learning some Turkish, my journey took me to Cyprus, where I studied Marketing and Management. I spent one year there and then went back to Istanbul to work with my uncle for an export company. Many other jobs in Turkey followed. I worked as a trainee, in PR for airports and hotels, in tourism, and I spent ten month doing night shifts. This night-cycle meant isolation for me, but I liked it, for the reason, that I was able to read a lot and watch documentaries. I dived into sociology, politics, evolution and biology. My favorite books were On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin and Guns, and Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond. Both offer a great perspective on the connection between biology and sociology. The theory of evolution fascinates me, since it explains how everything is interconnected. I like the Age of Enlightenment, because it offers a universal vision. This idea of a universal vision, is what I love, especially since I feel that I am not very connected to one nation. I do not feel like I have a social contract with any nation or society. I want to be objective to the West, and to my own culture – I want to have a universal vision.

Back home, I was a product of the public education system in Syria. I did not really like school and I did not have a thirst for knowledge, like I do today. My journey, the experiences I had, and the different people from all kinds of cultures, mindsets and backgrounds I met, changed me – and I began to think a lot about the concept of being human. I believe, it is all about seeing similarities and differences between people and crossing those within time. In Germany, I first started feeling like being at a border of two cultures. On the one hand, the Middle East/Islamic side, and on the other hand, the Western/Liberal side. It was confusing and difficult to find a connection between those two, and I spent a lot of time reading and learning to understand this complex relation. Germany is the first kind of individualistic culture I have been living in. Every other culture I was part of before was very collective. Here, you see a big diversity and at the same time I feel that people categorize themselves. Back in the Middle East they categorized themselves according to religion, here it is more a categorization of lifestyle. A kind of lifestyle-religion, about what people wear or what kind of music they listen to – grouping themselves, but without tension between them. In Germany, like everywhere else, you have open- and closed-minded people, good and bad, with everyone sharing very high moral standards of being polite, respecting time and respecting each other.

I have been in Germany for two years now. When I arrived in 2015, I lived in Leipzig. It was the first time I heard about this study platform for refugees. I was intrigued, and immediately applied. When I started studying with Kiron, the social startup was still in its infancy. I was able to take a bunch of courses on the platform. I really liked the diversity of knowledge and opportunity to freely choose courses. I took Law, Politics, Sociology and many more courses, truly appreciating the learning opportunities offered by Kiron’s MOOC providers. Kiron has come a long successful way since then, and it was fascinating to be part of such a journey. I learned so much and studied very hard. Today, I work for Kiron myself, helping others to overcome obstacles of online learning and shaping Kiron from a student perspective. For me, the Kiron journey was a short cut to educational integration. Kiron was my unique stepping stone to higher education in Germany.

With the help of Kiron, I was able to successfully transfer to Bard College Berlin in Summer 2016. It is something I was not expecting and a dream come true! Bard College is the most liberal experience I have had in my life so far. From the moment I went there, the people I met were incredibly friendly and free. It is a small college, but it is very diverse. At Bard, it is about understanding each other with students from all over the world sharing and exchanging intercultural perspectives. This loosens your ties with one place and identity – it does not abolish those ties – but gives you the abilities to untie cultural knots, transcend and to see the world through a universal vision: All refugees are humans, and all humans are citizens of the world!

Interview by Flora Roenneberg