By Anna Romandash and Una Kelly
Germany is one of the most attractive migrant destinations, thanks to its free education and possibility to study in English. Many people come to study and decide to stay after integrating into the local community. Besides free tuition, foreigners can also receive scholarships to study in the country; and German students can get the funding to support their studies in or outside of Germany. Friedrich Ebert Foundation is one of the organizations supporting students and helping them integrate in a diverse society through education, which is especially important for refugee youth.
Magd Faik Baschir is among the lucky ones; he received the scholarship from the foundation, and now, pursues his studies in economics. Originally from Iraq, Baschir sought refuge in Germany when he arrived here with his parents in 2001. “When I came to Germany, most national organizations supported only German citizens, so refugees could not get funding for their schooling,” he says, “Having the scholarship is an achievement itself that can change your life.”
A scholarship can help a person to integrate into a new society, and this is what happened to Mohammad Sulati. He came to Germany as an unaccompanied child from Guinea, applied as a minor asylum seeker, and grew up in a children’s home. “I lived there with five other children from Guinea, and we went to school together,” he recalls, “It was a difficult four years until I received my residence permit, but I met people who supported me in everything.”
Currently, Sulati studies educational science, and he wants to use his profession to give back to the community. “Since I’ve arrived here, I’ve been interested in helping people integrate, and I want to know what makes a happy life,” he explains, “To answer this, I engage in different clubs and groups at university.”
A scholarship can be an opportunity for Germans to explore other cultures, too. This is the case of Hanna Resch. A German citizen, she currently studies in Lebanon, where she majors in Arabic. “Thanks to the program, I have the opportunity to help refugees as a volunteer,” she explains, “I also get to connect with other scholarship holders and talk about political and social issues with people I would not have met otherwise”.
During the program, participants get to participate in seminars and conferences that bring the network together. They also get to join working groups that unite professionals based on their interests and passions. For instance, students can group around their interest in Middle East and cooperate on some topic-related projects. Another opportunity is to use the new connections in their future career.
“You get to meet lots of people, which widens your spectrum and makes you more understanding toward various ways of thinking,” says Bischer. Resch agrees. “We all study different things, so every person brings in expertise,” she says, “Exchange is really important because it helps you to grow and develop new ideas.”
For many people, a scholarship is the motivation to continue with their studies. “When you think you’ve lost everything, it’s important to have people to tell you to go on with your education,” Sulati explains, “When I stand and speak about my integration story today, it’s proof that it went well and developed positively”.
During his stay in Germany, Sulati found a family and started a career, so now, he wants to help youth in difficult situations. “It’s always important to me to support young refugees who came here with no parents, like I did,” he concludes, “You have to have patience and participate, and in this time learn the language because then you have better chances of getting support from the community.”
For many fellows, scholarships are not merely about the funding, but also about being politically involved. “You remain a part of organization even after you graduate,” Baschir says, “I study economics, but I may also get to work in politics thanks to this experience.” The studies helped him to become more flexible when interacting with others, and also, inspired to share his knowledge with potential students.
“I encourage youth to apply to the program even if they worry they do not qualify,” Resch says, “After all, it is not just about the grades, but also about being socially and politically involved.” The scholarship is always active, and is granted to up 3,000 students each year, who can receive 1000 Euros to pay for their living expenses while studying.