I have been taking my language classes for a few weeks now and I have realized that I am the only hispanic in my class. As some of you may already know (or may not), I was born in Peru and I moved to NYC at the age of seventeen. It has been ten years since then, and I feel as American as Peruvian. You can clearly tell I am the Spanish guy, not only by my physical characteristics, but by my distinguishably strong accent.
It is curious, how when we are exposed to a different environment that is not ours, we hold on to things or people we are familiar with. In my case, I hung out a lot with Americans in my first week. I was surprised to find out that I was no the only Hispanic, but the only first generation immigrant. And once again, I want to take a moment to thank the Fund for Education Abroad for this enormous opportunity that has been given to me. Thanks to an organization like that, underrepresented students can experience something like this. So, whoever is reading this and feels like they have lesser chances to study abroad due to their background or financial factors, know that there are organizations like this one who can help you fulfill your dreams of studying overseas in a different culture. As one my classmates says: “The fact that you are here, shows the rich diversity of the US”.
It also surprises me, how much of the American culture is still unknown to me. I came all the way to Germany to learn about a culture I consider my own.
However, the next weeks I noticed that I was not the only immigrant or outsider in a culture that was not originally mine. I noticed that there were a lot of people from Syria. And now that I have been here, I have learned that Germany has been taking more refugees that any other country in the EU. By making new friends at the Dialog Institute, I had the opportunity to learn about the Syria War and the epic journey Syrians go through to escape the war and to arrive in Germany.
Moreover, as opposed to other countries that up to this date have only accepted 11 Syrian refugees, Germany has accepted more than 1 million Syrians since Angela Merkel opened the border in 2015. Stating: “Wir schaffen das” or “we can do this”, Merkel considered the migratory crisis in Europe a “national duty” and since then they have been giving asylum to thousands of Syrians. My friends have told me that once they arrive at reception camps, they are allocated to hostels or even schools which had previously been turned into temporary homes). Within a few months, those who qualify for asylum are placed in community homes.
The German government does not only accept refugees into their country, but above all, they have integration programs in which children are sent to school three weeks after their arrival and younger adult go through an intensive course to lear German. It sure is still early to determine how successful Germany has been at integrating newcomers. But so far, its is managing, and to a certain point, the country has coped. Germany is giving a world class on morality and humanity to those countries which turned their backs on the Syria issue.
Despite not having gone through the odysseys of the Syrians, I can relate to a lot of the struggles my Syrian friends are going through now. Assimilating to a totally different culture with a different language is not easy, but it is possible. I am confident that they will take advantage of the noble heart of this nation and will better and improve their lives.
By looking into their dark eyes, I can see myself. I realize that I am not only an immigrant, but like them, I am a refugee of life and other unfortunate circumstances. I am like them. I am them. I am Syrian too.