Hi guys! In todays Expat Interview I would like to introduce you to a great girl I met recently at My Stuttgart language exchange. Ahd grew up in Damascus. She had experienced the war in Syria but managed to get out finally. She lives in Stuttgart now and works as a volunteer for the organization “The Global Experience”. But let’s hear her story from herself:
Ahd, great meeting you again! Before we begin with the interview, please tell me how I can pronounce your name correctly!
Oh sure. It’s difficult in Arabic. But in English you can just say “Ahead”. That’s easier to pronounce. It means “promise” by the way.
What a lovely meaning. OK Ahd, why did you move to Stuttgart?
I lived in Damascus, Syria, where I grew up and started studying English after school. But when the war broke out I wanted to leave. It didn’t matter where to, I just wanted to get out of Syria because life became too dangerous there. I applied for scholarships abroad. But it was very hard to get one. The requirements were very high. Most of them wanted master degree students for example and I was just doing my bachelor degree. Plus it is hard for Syrians to get a scholarship in Europe because we are not in the Schengen Agreement and they only accept a small percentage of students from outside of this treaty. But finally I got accepted! I couldn’t believe it and even all the people in the German embassy in Beirut, where I had to go to do an interview, told me I am crazy, it couldn’t be true – but it was true and I got a scholarship. So I moved to Münster in July 2016 where I stayed for a few weeks and afterwards to Stuttgart in November.
So you were in Germany during winter. Is it colder here in winter as it is in Syria?
Oh so cold! I lived outside of Stuttgart at the beginning, close to Aalen. And there it was even colder and there was snow everywhere. When I moved there, it was minus six degrees and it was just the beginning of winter. I couldn’t believe it.
What did you know about Stuttgart before you came here?
I had heard of Stuttgart before but I didn’t have a real idea what it looks like here. But when I got accepted for the scholarship and knew that I would move to Stuttgart afterwards I did a lot of research. So when I arrived here, I already knew a lot about it.
How do you like living in Stuttgart?
For me, Stuttgart is really the best city! Due to my volunteer work with “Life back home” I had the chance to visit many other cities: Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Bonn… But next to Hamburg, I like Stuttgart the most. It is very safe and clean here and I like the people and the nature. It is not easy to find a place in a foreign country where you feel really comfortable but I do here in Stuttgart.
Is there something you like in particular here in Stuttgart?
You might laugh but the public transport system! It is very safe and reliable! It is so easy to get from one place to another. Other German cities have good public transport systems too but none is as easy to understand as the one here in Stuttgart.
Was there a situation that made you wonder during your first days?
Yes, there was one situation. When I lived with the German family one morning a neighbor paid them a visit. And she went right into the kitchen, opened the fridge and helped herself! That was very unusual for me. In the Arabic culture you ask permission for everything.
Is there a cultural trait you’ve picked up already?
Germans are said to be always on time. And I like to be on time as well. I haven’t picked it up here, I was like that all my life. But in Syria, I always had to wait for my friends. Sometimes they were late for half an hour or so. And here, people are on time too! I love that! Now, when I meet a friend, I always ask “Is our appointment a German or an Arabic one?”
What are your favorite places here in Stuttgart?
I love old, historic buildings like the one at Charlottenplatz, the old orphanage, where the Welcome Center, ifa and Café Planie are located in. But I love the nature even more. There are so many great places to go here in Stuttgart where you can be in the nature. One of my favorite ones is Birkenkopf/Monte Scherbelino! You walk up there through the forest and when you stand on top of it you have an amazing view over the city!
Have you tried Swabian food already and how did you like it?
The first Swabian food I tried was Spätzle and I liked it because it reminded me on a Syrian dish. I also tried Pfannkuchen (pancake) and Flädlesuppe. And I liked it even better!
You told me about the project you are working for. Can you tell me more about it?
Yes sure. It is called “Life back home”. We are a team of 24 people and most of us are refugees. We visit high schools and talk about the situation in our home countries and share our personal stories and perspectives. The idea behind it is to give German pupils first hand experiences and thus broaden their understanding of the situations in foreign countries like for example Syria. I enjoy working with “Life back home” a lot. It was a bit difficult at the beginning as we all share our personal experiences and stories but it got easier and easier.
Why did you join “Life back home”?
I lived almost five years in the war in Syria and I was aware of what was going on exactly. I had so many bad experiences and suffered a lot. Moreover I knew the true stories behind the false coverage in the news. I always wished I could tell the people the truth and show them the hidden part behind the stories in the news. That was the reason of joining “Life back home”. I wanted to let the people know the real scenes of the war and to show them that we are like everybody else. We have the same dreams, the same goals, and the same morals, and these other small details of being different from each other ( Religion, origins, culture) are not important since we are all at first human!
How can schools or other interested institutions reach out to you?
Simply visit our website lifebackhome.de. There you will find a lot of information about our project and you can get in contact with us. Our presentations are free for the schools and institutions so all they need to provide is a room and time.
Ahd, thank you very much for your time and for sharing your experiences and thoughts with us!