Diary of an international talent in Magdeburg
Edited on22 October 2019
The Welcoming International Talent project focusses on welcoming international students and expats in medium sized European cities. Aim is to improve welcoming policies of these seven cities with various projects. But how do internationals themselves experience living in these welcoming cities? In this column, an international from each WIT-city will share their experiences. This time: Hiba Mahmood from Magdeburg, Germany!
Fled from Syria for a peaceful life in Magdeburg
This article is written by Hiba Mahmood
I did not hesitate a moment when I decided to leave Syria and follow my husband to Magdeburg. On the contrary. I wanted to escape the tragic situation in Syria as quickly as possible in order to start a new life in Germany. But that was not easy.
The first attempt to move from Syria to Hamburg failed because my husband and I could not find an affordable apartment in Hamburg. So we decided to move to the city of Magdeburg. My husband already had a few contacts and friends in Magdeburg. They explained to us that despite the increase in the number of inhabitants and the increase in rents, living in Magdeburg was of high quality and still affordable. And so it was. Already after the first weeks in this city I noticed so many parks and green areas, lots of supermarkets, shopping centres and beautiful sights, like the cathedral or the Hundertwasserhaus. The tranquillity of this city, the beautiful nature and strolling along the river "Elbe" often took away my doubts and made me feel comfortable. But the best was the Arabic shops and restaurants in Magdeburg, where I could smell the scents of my country. This made it much easier for me to settle in the new city.
However, it was initially difficult to get to know and understand the people and the rules in Magdeburg without being able to speak a word of German. I often needed an interpreter for my appointments at the bank, the citizen's office or the doctor's. Many administrative staff members did not speak English well enough or sometimes answered me only in German as a matter of principle. It was therefore very important to learn the language as quickly as possible in order to prove to them that I would like to integrate into Magdeburg and not be dependent on anyone.
In Magdeburg there are many honorary associations and organizations, which bring the international population with the Magdeburgers in contact by organizing meetings. At the beginning I myself took part in cooking evenings for women. Here women from different cultures brought food and we spent all our time together and talked, no matter if you could speak the language or not, we always found a solution to communicate with the others. Seeing this harmony was really beautiful.
But also financially Magdeburg was a good choice for my husband and me. Life here is not as expensive as in Munich or Berlin, and you have many opportunities to apply for language and integration courses. Thanks to the University of Applied Sciences Magdeburg-Stendal I was able to attend a free intensive language course for one year. Within one year I was able to increase my German level from B1 to C1. The C1 level opened the door for a course of my choice at the university. The university staff helped me to choose the right course by allowing me to attend a few guest lectures in advance free of charge.
Since the winter semester 2016/2017 I have been studying Industrial Design at the University of Applied Sciences Magdeburg-Stendal. Currently I am in my 6th semester. I enjoy studying there and consider it my second home. I'm on campus every day, even if I don't have a lecture. I love the library and that it is a lot of comfort when learning. The campus is surrounded by greenery and was chosen by the students in 2018 as the most beautiful campus in Germany, not for nothing. The lecturers are very friendly and support me in all questions, which always motivates me to give my best. One of my lecturers once said to me: "Hiba we are so proud of you and we are happy that you found us at the university despite the circumstances". I knew then that I had made the right decision. The university is the place where I don't feel alienated. It is the reason why I would like to stay in Germany.
During my studies I got closer to the people in Magdeburg and got to know their culture and way of life. I now understand them better and learn again and again to respect the differences of others so that my differences are also respected. Many people here in Magdeburg are very nice and helpful. They are interested in Arab culture and would like to help other international people in Magdeburg.
These four years in Magdeburg have changed me a lot and I am completely satisfied with the person I have become. I am more self-confident now and am not afraid to express what comes to my mind and through my studies I have learned to act independently and to think FREE.
Submitted by Evite van Winkoop on