Normally I never betray my mother’s wishes, but this time, I had no choice. Leaving my family behind was the hardest part, I love my family and country, but when I had to choose between staying with them or fighting in a war I didn’t want to be a part of…I left. I left without even telling my mother I would leave because I knew it would tear her apart. So I packed my bag and left in the night in attempts to be long gone before anyone could try to stop me. As expected, come morning my mother was heartbroken to learn I had gone, but she understood. Life in Syria, especially war-torn Aleppo was not a life well-lived. It has been three years since I left home, and while much has changed since then, the love for my family remains as strong as ever. I think if I saw my parents today I would cry. I think I would be in such shock I wouldn’t even be able to move. I don’t regret coming to Germany – here, I have possibilities. But I do miss the familiarity and comfort of home. I lived with my parents, two brothers and one of my four sisters before I left. The house truly was a home full of love and warmth and leaving this was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. My name is Ahmad, and just like every other human being, I too have dreams. And as tough as it was going behind my mothers back, I had to make a choice. I chose to follow a path where building a life and reaching my dreams would be possible.
The surety of my decision has faded in and out over the years. It was always during the darker moments, the times were I was lonely or scared that I would lose sight of my drive to pursue a better life. But with each moment of doubt always came a light of hope and my determination always grew stronger. Getting to Germany was a long and trying journey I’ll never forget no matter how hard I try. I didn’t realize that my travels from Aleppo were the easy part. It was when I arrived in Greece and accepted the reality of what I was doing that fear set in. There was only one way for me to go from Greece to Germany…to this day I still can’t describe the experience. All I know is that even now, three years after the life-changing trip, I am still scared of the endless depth and crashing waves of the ocean. If I never have to step foot on a boat again I will be a very happy man. I always thought those first few weeks in Turkey would be the times I would be most grateful for, for they were the beginning of a new life. And while they were symbolic, it was not until one month later when I finally touched the shores of Germany that I understood what gratitude meant. I had survived the dangers of the open ocean that took the lives of so many men, women and children like myself. It was in these first moments, despite the unknown of it all, that I could feel the firmness of opportunity, the certainty of chance, and most of all, the possibility of a future.
I came to Germany alone where I live in Rostock in a WG, sharing a room with a friend. It was a strange feeling, especially in the beginning. I had to start over in almost every sense. I had no family, no friends, no work. I didn’t even have documents that would let me study let alone be recognized as a person! This was for me heartbreaking. My parents had established themselves early on in their lives and I was determined to do the same. To this day, my father still works as an engineer and my mother as a biology teacher – I too want to make something of myself and I know the only way to do so is to get my degree and find a good job. It took nearly three years and endless determination, but I am finally on track to make my parents proud. I finally started a master program in Economic Computer Science at Universität Rostock. Before I left Syria I had obtained my bachelor’s in Information Technology and even began the first semester of my master. But when I was faced with the hard decision of starting over somewhere else or having to join the army, I knew which road I had to take. It wasn’t easy, and getting into university was certainly a long process. I am even finishing the final six credits needed to be officially recognized for having completed my bachelor degree in Germany. All of this while starting my masters makes it feel like all I do is study these days… but I know it will be worth it.
Over the course of the three years before I was accepted into my master, I tried to stay updated on my studies as much as possible. This would not have been possible without Kiron. I learned about Kiron from the international house in Rostock, and since then I have even had the chance to visit Berlin twice for two different Kiron events! The first Berlin event I went to was for Kiron’s programming week, and the second for a study prep workshop…they were both really interesting and great experiences! I not only got to learn a lot of new and useful material for my studies but I met amazing people that I could be myself with and relate to, all the while touring and falling in love with the history and beauty of Berlin. With Kiron, I was able to continuously refresh my past studies to stay current and be prepared for another chance at university life. Even now, after officially starting at Universität Rostock, I still use some of Kiron’s Coursera courses to help me prepare for my master work – it lets me study more and on my own time and pace which I love. In total, I gained 12 transfer credits from Kiron, which helped make university not only a possibility but a reality again. I am so grateful for the continued support!
Education is so important to me because it means a possibility towards bettering yourself, finding good work and being able to ground and support your own family one day – this is my dream. One day I might even start my own business! But for now, I focus on my masters so I can follow the steps of a good life surrounded by good people and family. I am dreaming of the day that everything just kind of falls into place and I can wake up in the morning with a smile on my face. While my dreams are not outlandish, sometimes I fear my hopes may be unrealistic. Like many other Syrians, I dream about the day the war will end and that I will get to return home. Without the resolution of the war, I can not return – I refuse to fight in a war that I don’t believe in. Until that day comes, I will stay in Germany. Even though learning the culture and language has been exhausting at times, it is getting better. That said, I still feel like an outsider. Even making friends is difficult. Back home, in Syria, people are so much more open…you can make friends in one or two weeks whereas in Germany it feels like it takes years.
I believe education is the foundation of a successful life.
I know that as long as I stay in Germany, I can not expect anything other than a life where everyday offers a new challenge and learning process, and while this is something unfamiliar, I am prepared for it. On one hand, it means a lifetime of learning, not just from books and online courses, but in real life, through interactions and cultural differences. And after all, I believe education is the foundation of a successful life. Without education and without accepting education in whichever form it presents itself throughout life, you can not be your best self, nor reach your greatest life-goals. If there is one thing I am certain about it is that education is the groundwork of a successful life. I believe that even the chance of returning home one day to my family and my home is served with better odds through a lifetime of learning.
Interview by Alisha Merkle // #Education4Integration campaign, sponsored by H&M Foundation