Mar 22, 2016
Taking up university studies in Germany – or continuing the studies begun in one’s home country: for Fahd Majzoub, a Syrian refugee, this dream may soon become a reality. This past week, the 22-year-old was among the approximately 180 prospective students who attended an information event held in conjunction with the Welcome to Freie Universität Berlin program. This program aims to facilitate refugees' access to regular degree programs.
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.
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.
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.”
Information on the Welcome to Freie Universität Berlin program can be accessed online.
Those wishing to take part in the Welcome to Freie Universität Berlin program may submit their applications online. Interested individuals must present proof of their status as a registered refugee in Berlin or Brandenburg and must hold a university entrance qualification from their country of origin. Prospective students applying for a degree program can make use of the Information Service, which has extensive experience in advising refugees and asylum seekers.
Those interested in taking up studies may inquire directly at the Student Services Center, Iltisstr. 4, 14195 Berlin (near the Dahlem-Dorf subway station). It is open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The center can be reached by phone at +49 30 838 700 00 and +49 30 838 77770 or per email at Info-Service@fu-berlin.de.
As part of the Welcome to Freie Universität Berlin program, the Visual and Media Anthropology master’s program is offering a scholarship. It is directed at refugees who already have a first university degree and at least one year of relevant work experience. Application deadline: April 30, 2016. Further information is available online.