I am Shilan, a girl from Syria. Since I was a child, I have dreamed of becoming a successful elementary school teacher. I love children and that’s why I always acted as a teacher when I was a little girl. When I grew up and graduated from high school with a focus on literature, I got a high average score, equivalent to a 1.8 in Germany – which is considered a very good score. Then I decided to go to university and fulfill my dream of becoming an elementary school teacher.
Because of the war in my country I was only able to study for two semesters. During this time, my father decided that we were going to leave Syria. We were looking for a safe country where my family and I could live – away from war and destruction. My father decided that we should seek asylum in Germany.
A new start in Germany
Life was not easy for me. Everything around me was new. One of the biggest challenges was learning the German language. At first, I learned German on my own, because our request to stay in Germany (residency permit) was refused three times, so I couldn’t get into a language school. I had to work hard on my own for eight months. Then later I was also able to attend German language courses.
I also started volunteering activities as a helper for refugees and immigrants. When we moved into a new house, I was accepted into a private school. I was able to do my training as a social worker there. After graduating in this field, I decided to study educational and social sciences at the University of Erfurt.
The happiest day of my life
My first day at university was the happiest day of my life and a unique experience. I had conflicting feelings: fears, hopes and aspirations. I began to turn my dream of studying education and social sciences into a reality and I knew exactly that the path was not easy and that I would face many difficulties. But I had the confidence that I would overcome all obstacles.
As expected, the way I interacted with the other students at university was different. It was great being able to adapt to the new situation. Students in Erfurt have different cultural backgrounds and different ways of thinking. I am very proud to have chosen this major and am satisfied with my choice. University is a new world for me. Of course, I set myself a goal that the course would give me a lot. I feel more responsible for myself now than before.
First steps on a new path in my life and in a different society
The first semester was the beginning of a new life: a new way of realizing and proving myself, getting off all the limitations and making new friends. At the beginning of my studies I met a group of other new students. Through them I was able to meet new characters, learn about other cultures and made experiences that some consider impossible. All of this had a huge impact on my life. Then I really realized that I am strong in many aspects.
During the university preparatory events, I learned all about the different university departments, examination regulations and all related matters. The first semester at the university was the beginning of getting to know life in its private and public form. My first month in college was unusual because my feelings fluctuated between passion and expectation. I tried to spend less time at home and instead spend most of the day at university and meeting other students.
Encouragement and support from my parents
At the beginning of my university career, I faced a lot of difficulties, most notably the language. But I was determined not to give up on my dream of studying. So I finished all my exams with a very good grade. My determination, love of education, encouragement and support from my parents give me a lot of motivation to continue my studies. My parents advised me to set a goal in my life that I would work towards every day. Despite the obstacles, I began to devote all my energy in getting good grades. I was studying alone at university every day for some time.
In Syria, studying is completely different
When I started the exams, I realized that exams in Germany are different from those at my university in Syria. The study here is characterized by understanding and discussion rather than memorization. I also noticed that the atmosphere in the university is different from that in my school and university in Syria, where my German university is characterized more by the formation of the students‘ personalities. I see that the stage of life at university is unusual and special.
In my first lecture I was very excited. I started downloading the materials and creating a timetable. I don’t deny that I suffered from the differences in the academic system: a full curriculum, independent work, and intense academic work. Researching on the internet was often necessary and also a challenge for me. I didn’t know all these things from my university studies in Syria. But what helped was the way professors dealt with the students that gave me the motivation to overcome many difficulties.
Studying is an opportunity for every young person
I am now studying education and social sciences in my third semester. I went to university and I am ready to benefit from this experience with all its advantages and disadvantages. University life for me is an impressive world. I think it’s a great opportunity for us young people to make new friends and interact with our surroundings. It also offers culture, topics, and a purposeful and significant preoccupation with one’s own interests. It is a rewarding experience in every way.
This text was created in the Schreibtandem Project with Margarethe Hoberg.
This post was first published in German.