I am Farah Abbas, a 29-year old pharmacist from Damascus (Sham). I have been living in Berlin in Germany for about three and a half years. I married Ward Al-Damshqi, a Syrian living in Austria, while I was in Germany. Our child is 18 months old.
I first came to Germany at the end of 2016 as I had been admitted to university. I didn’t have the necessary paperwork to complete the registration process for my studies. My journey started after I was forced to request asylum less than a month after my arrival in Germany. Thus, I was in one country and my husband in another. I stayed in a refugee camp called "Hain" in Germany, and the situation was difficult at that time.
First I lived in a common room with six women. My communication with them was both difficult and easy. Psychological pressure played a role because we were far from our families and homes.
The lack of communication and the pressure was mainly due to not knowing the language. Sometimes I felt helpless as I couldn't connect with my surroundings. This pressure led me to move to a single room in Hain after I got my residency in Germany. During this period, I enrolled in a language course. I studied language on my own, and after approximately four to five months, I was able to pass the first stage of the integration course and then take the so-called "political examination", which later qualifies you for German citizenship.
After passing the political examination, I felt that I wanted to know more about the country. I appreciated having a direct connection with people because we had only been taught grammar rules on the language study course. This prevented me from having a full conversation with a native German speaker. As I was preparing to have my university degrees equalised, I could not find work, not even a part-time job. I started looking for programs to find a home, either in a house on my own or with a German family, which I found to be the easiest option. After a few interviews, I met a German family - a woman with two daughters, who were almost my age.
Things started to get easier when I started living with this family. At the beginning, after two weeks of living with them, communication was a little difficult, not due to the language barrier but a barrier to getting to know each other. I would like to point out that they helped me when I reached out to them, and they made it easier for me to do so and helped me break the barrier between us. The communication between us improved with time through our daily meetings when they returned from their work for dinner. At the time of my language course for example, we met over dinner and talked and they helped me if I misspelled or mispronounced a word. We had a daily activity where we would watch one episode of a German series with subtitles together to help me see and hear German. When I had any difficulty understanding the words, they would explain in simplified German. Their constant support in such small activities helped me improve my vocabulary. They also helped me and encouraged me to finish the advanced language level course to sit the exam that allowed me to equalise my certificate.
I was unable to sit for the examination because I was pregnant. I later gave birth and still have not taken the examination because there is no childcare for my daughter. There are laws here that monitor children, and the authorities must know where you live, and that is hard.
After some time living with the German family, they became my adopted family in Germany. Sunday became Friday. I mean, Sunday became like Friday in the Sham. Friday was a day when I would visit my parents and have breakfast with them. I had Sunday traditions with my family; we went on holidays and walked together and sat to talk.
My two families, both the Syrian and the German one, have a connection even though they are elderly now. With the help of the German family, I was able to find a house for myself but we still meet on Sunday. Nearly every weekend we meet us; either I visit them or they come to my house. My room at their house is still as it was, filled with some of my clothes and stuff. They even created a play place for my child in their kitchen garden. Unfortunately due to the quarantine for Covid-19, we have not been able to meet as we did before.
This family has changed from a family that hosted me as a stranger into my family away from home. I embrace being their daughter, which has helped me to love this country where I live, so my language is better and I communicate with people better. The fear that was preventing me from communicating with people was very real for me. That is my story.