Many weeks – and thousands of kilometers – separate Fahd Majzoub from the lecture hall he frequented up until last year. Having studied media science in his hometown of Damascus, this young Syrian planned on specializing in online marketing. In his third year, shortly before completing his studies, the then 21-year-old was forced to flee his home country.
A raging civil war and ongoing terror had made life in this region too dangerous. Some eight months later, on a March morning in Berlin, Fahd finds himself in an auditorium of Freie Universität – pen in hand and ready to take notes. He came to learn about what opportunities to study at this university are available to refugees. By the end of the two-hour-long information session, he had taken plenty of notes and come up with a plan.
Program with Many Components
The presentations outlined the prerequisites for enrollment in a degree program and also drew attention to selected courses that are already open to refugees living in Berlin and Brandenburg. Information was also provided on the so-called Studienkolleg, a preparatory year for individuals hoping to move into the university system, and the Independent Language Learning Center. Prospective students can sign up for reciprocal language partnerships here and also take part in German workshops. The International Club, a student-run group that puts on events and offers excursions for international and local students, also introduced itself.
A Buddy Program offers another opportunity for university-bound refugees to establish contact with students and members of Freie Universität. Approximately 100 members of the university already offer practical support to refugees by making themselves available to answer study-related questions. “Buddies” can explain, for example, how the German university system works and where the libraries and cafeterias are located.
“You have a lot to offer us”
Klaus Hoffman-Holland, a professor of criminal law and one of the vice presidents of Freie Universität, welcomed participants attending the information event. “In Freie Universität’s history, especially as it relates to the university’s founding, ensuring academic freedom in teaching and research was – and still is – paramount. And this is also why it’s very important to have you here,” Professor Hoffman-Holland told university-bound refugees. And further, “You have a lot to offer! And we hope that we can be a source of enrichment for you as well. I hope to see you all again soon.”
Fahd Majzoud, for one, is certain: “I will definitely be signing up for this program.”