An easy life is a good life. And a good life means having good friends, being surrounded by family and being happy about all the little things life has to offer. This portrait of happiness is something I once had and something I long to return to. My name is Kamal and I am proud of my roots, of my culture and of my community. My hometown Daraa, the southernmost city of Syria, is for me a dream land. Well, perhaps not so much now as it is riddled with conflicts and issues of war, but I am holding on to some hope that one day it will return to the Daraa I know and love – a place where family and friends come first, where joy is found in the simple things and life is easy and familiar. Unfortunately this idea of returning home is more of a dream than anything else…I am not very optimistic. Most of my family and about half of my friends are still there – I worry about their safety. I miss them. We keep contact regularly but it isn’t the same. You can only communicate so much through technology, but the real moments, the ones where you can feel the laughter of your friends rippling through the air around you and inhale all the fresh senses of land and spices that bring you back to your childhood… these are lost.
Since I left home nearly three years ago, a lot has changed. I am very busy, but I prefer it that way. I live in Dresden, Germany and I like it here. I am currently in the second semester of my Duales Studium at Berufsakademie Leipzig, so my living situation is a bit complicated at the moment. It’s not a very common program so I find myself explaining the process often – but it’s a brilliant concept and I love it! I am studying Informatics while simultaneously gaining practical experience to help prepare me for post-university life. Every three months I have to move… while it keeps things interesting, it is also difficult finding a new place every time. It usually means spending a few nights on a friends couch – which for the academic and professional experience I am gaining is not a bad price to pay. I feel like I am living a sort of double life. But it’s great, I get to take advantage of both learning about both the theoretical world and the practical, and I am even able to earn enough money to be financially independent! Sometimes it is through the small achievements that we can be most grateful. My personal and social life in Leipzig is merely non-existent. Here, I am knees deep in my theoretical studies, surrounded by books and all things academic. I am going to school all day and studying all night, between that and cooking and cleaning and having to take care of myself, I find myself always hiding behind one book or another.
My life is Dresden is more interesting and also more comfortable, after all, this has been home for almost three years now. Here I have some friends, more things to do, and am even involved with my community. I go to work during the day and feel lucky that I am one of the few people I know who actually enjoys their job. I have time to see my friends and time to do things for myself. One of my favorite things about being in Dresden is being back with my film group. We organize movie nights and hang out together, talking about movies, life, everything.
I also donate my time and energy every other Saturday to work with kids from Syria to help support them in their studies. I know I am not saving the world, but I am doing my part to help make a small but positive difference. I know it can be hard sometimes to feel comfortable in a new country, and I imagine it must be even more difficult for Syrian children trying to go to school and study in a language they aren’t familiar with. So I help in the ways I know how and help tutor children in math. I love all things numbers and it’s nice being a part of a Syrian community – in some ways, it reminds me of being home, even if only for a few hours on the occasional weekend. I truly believe that education is one of the most important things in life because it can offer stability. Coming to Germany and not receiving proper recognition for the studies I completed back in Syria was tough – I see this as a chance to turn my bad luck around and help these kids now so they can have more hope and better chances later.
I was two semesters shy of completing my Bachelors in Mathematics before I had to leave home. And it is actually because of my studies with Kiron that I switched my degree and am now finishing my degree in Informatics. I discovered Kiron through a social media post from Syrian Researchers and once I saw it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So I applied and from that moment on, everything just kind of fell into place. They didn’t have a math module so I switched to Informatics because it was similar and I thought it would be interesting – and it was! Once I got started I realized just how similar the two fields were and just how much I liked learning about Informatics. It was easy to study with Kiron online and everything was accessible. I was able to keep learning while figuring out what to do with myself – Kiron helped me understand my options and take the first steps. I was also using a lot of language courses to work on my German – not an easy language to learn but when you have to do something, you just do it. I believe that once you set your mind to something you can do anything, but that through education, everything is made that much more achievable. A lot has changed over the last years but education has remained a priority just as much as it has been the one constant in my life.
Despite the successes and luck, I feel I am having with how my life is falling into place in Germany, it is still not home. It not so much that I want to leave Germany but more so that I just want to go back to Daraa and be where I belong. If the war would end, returning to my beloved motherland would be a dream come true. It is small, yes. But it is humble and full of good people. There are not so many big companies and grand job opportunities, but it is home. I can still smell the fresh farmland air from all those summers of working under the warmth of the sun. Reminiscing makes it harder sometimes, but sometimes it’s impossible not to think about the simplicity life used to offer me. There was a time where playing Trex, a traditional Syrian card game, was the norm. In my near three years since being in Germany, I have only played once, maybe twice, and back in Syria Trex was a daily norm. Ask almost any Syrian and they will know it – it’s just one of those cultural norms, one of the many things I love about home. Don’t get me wrong, Germany has offered me so much to be grateful for, and I am! I like it here and my life is good. But they say home is where the heart is, and my heart rests among the familiar land of Daraa where I am was once surrounded by friends, family, and the simple joys of a safe and easy life.
Interview by Alisha Merkle
#Education4Integration campaign, sponsored by H&M Foundation