When I think about war and the violence caused by it, it is not the physical pain that first comes to mind but rather the emotional. It is the hate and judgment brought on by the war, the prejudice people start to feel and the barriers that they put up in fear of all the politically charged ideals – that is what causes more pain in the long term. Even when – sometimes I wonder if – the civil war will end, I know that the hate and distance that has been built over the years will take decades before it can get better. When I used to speak with strangers, it was about getting to know them as a person, now it is always about where someone is from, what religion they practice and what political party they support. I don’t like this. In the first few moments when we meet new people, we are already making our judgments. I don’t want to be viewed as the man from Syria or the refugee in Germany. I am Osama, a positive guy, passionate about life, a family man who values good relationships and a strong community, and most of all, I am a hopeful person.
Life hasn’t been easy these past few years. More specifically, life has been testing me since December 2015. A lot has changed in the past few years, and I feel my patience and faith in the goodness of people has been challenged. But I am still here, strong and ready to tackle whatever problems life throws at me. Despite all the travel, change, the language barrier and racism that I have experienced in the last three years, I have also experienced kindness, generosity, and opportunity. Leaving Damascus, my hometown, a place filled with amazing memories from my entire childhood, was one of the hardest things I have ever experienced. That was, until I endured the gruesome passage through Turkey and Greece, that so many countless others like myself have had to endure due to having no other choice. Little did I know, that this was the point of no return. The days of being in a peaceful, harmonious community where there was mutual respect and appreciation for your family, friends, and neighbours – these days would be gone forever. My arrival in Germany, like for so many other refugees, brought on a mix of feelings. On one side, I was happy to have made it, to have the chance to start over and build a new life. On the other side, I never felt so unwanted and isolated as I did upon my original arrival in Leipzig and later in Limbach.
I knew I should feel grateful, and in many ways I did. But when you are in poor living conditions, staying in refugee camps that allow for no privacy and only halfway decent living conditions, it is hard to stay positive. But I did. And I believe that it is because of my positivity and my hope for a better path that eventually, I was granted the opportunity to make my dreams a reality. Learning the language was the hardest part about working towards my dreams – German is not an easy language! But I knew that focusing on my education, on learning the native language and working towards getting my university degree, was the only answer towards success. Before I was forced to leave Damascus, I had nearly completed my second semester in computer engineering. I heard there was a good computer science program in Saarland and before I knew it, this became my goal. I thought about it day and night. So I started to learn and study everything and anything.
I needed to learn German, I needed to pass some tests, everything seemed quite practical, but the practical parts proved to be more challenging than I had expected. It was about a year after my arrival that I learned about Kiron. I had heard about it from many friends and was eager to see what the fuss was about. So I applied, was accepted and started studying. I started the computer science study track, and while I learned a lot about the courses I needed for the computer science field, it was not the most valuable lesson I learned from Kiron. Kiron helped me understand how universities in Germany work. I know this must seem really basic, but for me, it’s priceless. When I first arrived, I didn’t know how to buy my own bus or train ticket, and before I knew it, thanks to Kiron, I was not only buying tickets, but I was understanding the system and the way society here works – this, for me was everything. I even attended several Kiron events, which were great. I got to take part in workshops, study weekends and work on different projects, all the while meeting incredibly supportive people. All the things I learned and experienced were so helpful – I can’t imagine where I would be without it.
I think the hardest moment for me in my new life in Germany was when I did not pass the language test the first time I took it. I was broken. As if everything I had worked so hard for meant nothing. I watched my dreams shatter in front of me – without German, there would be no university, and without university, there was no future. Equally as important, my most beautiful moment in Germany, was the moment I passed my DSH certificate, which would allow me to attend university. My language skills were good enough, I was done taking tests to prove myself as a student and, in some ways, as a person! And just like that, the shattered image was put back together and hope was once again on the horizon.
I later took an IQ test at the University of Saarbrücken, knowing that if I passed I could have a chance at being a real student again. And I did! I passed and started a three-month program that eventually led me to where I am now. I am in my first semester at the University of Saarbrücken. I am finally on track towards completing my bachelor’s degree, and hopefully one day also my master’s! I know it will not be easy, but I am determined. I am taking a programming course right now and it’s very difficult. I study 80 hours a week at university and even more once I am home. Here, in Germany, through education, I have a chance.
It is funny how much can change in a year. While the racism I faced when I first arrived still lingers around dark corners, things have gotten better. I have met amazing friends from Germany as well as other foreigners, I am studying a subject I am really passionate about and I even have a minijob! I know countless other refugees who desperately search for minijobs to earn some money and make a better living, so for this, I am also grateful. Every day I am still learning about the German culture and working to integrate more into my new society, but I still wish others would try to do the same.
But when I meet people who aren’t interested in getting to know me or my story, I remind myself that for every bad person in the world, there are just as many, if not more, good people. I truly believe that if we all come together and face one another as human beings, that we can build a better, more peaceful world. Instead of focusing on things that put up walls, like comparing religious and political views, we should focus on things that bring us together. Like food, art, and culture! For example, I love kartoffelsalat…I never knew that potatoes could be a salad, and yet, here in Germany, it is! If we could all just talk about things we liked and had in common more often, maybe life would be better and everybody would smile a little more with each new day.
Read the full student magazine here.
– in cooperation with the Allianz Cultural Foundation