“I just want to lead a normal life”
Refugees attend an event to learn about the "Welcome to Freie Universität Berlin" program
Dec 17, 2015
They met in refugee housing in Berlin’s Charlottenburg neighborhood: Amin, who is from Syria, and Murad, from Iraq. They came to Dahlem together today to join about a hundred other refugees in learning about the “Welcome to Freie Universität berlin” academic program.
The educational initiative aims to help refugees who are planning to study at Freie Universität to gain access to the university.
Amin, 30, studied medicine in his home country. He has been in Berlin for three months now, and today, in the Henry Ford Building at Freie Universität, he has only one wish: He wants to continue his studies in Berlin and “just lead a normal life.”
Hopes of a little normalcy were also what brought two brothers, Muhanad and Adnan, to Dahlem. The two young Syrians have been staying in refugee housing in Wannsee with their 11-year-old brother for a week now. They are accompanied today not by their parents, who stayed behind in Damascus, but instead by two volunteer helpers from the Wannsee Ecumenical Welcome Association (Ökumenisches Willkommensbündnis Wannsee). Richard Mann and his wife, Bärbel Jochum-Mann, both studied at Freie Universität themselves, and they hope the “Welcome to Freie Universität Berlin” program will eventually give the brothers access to a degree program in Germany.
The Elements of the Welcome to Freie Universität Berlin Program
The hope is that this will be made possible by the various elements of the initiative – including selected courses, German classes, and a buddy program in which students accompany refugees at the university. Starting in the next summer semester, there are plans to make it possible to earn academic credit that can be applied toward a study program later on. An English-language class, “Berlin and German Studies,” will also be offered to teach the new arrivals about Germany’s cultural, historical, social, and political development in an international context.
Integration through Education
Muhanad and Adnan want to learn German as soon as possible. After that, Adnan hopes to continue his studies of law, which he started before fleeing Syria. “Integrating young refugees into the German education system is hugely important,” says Mann, who studied political science at Freie Universität in the late 1960s.
“In the short term, it’s definitely a tough challenge, but in the medium to long term, it will benefit our society a great deal,” says Mann, who is now 73. Helping the refugees has a personal aspect for the couple: “We are helping these young men just as we would want our sons to be helped if they were in this situation,” Jochum-Mann says.