The native of Somalia Zaki Bare Warsame was one of the first graduates of the “Future Chances Apprenticeship” (Zukunftschance Ausbildung) program. With this program, the Bremen senate opens the path to a dual apprenticeship for young refugees via a one-year entry qualification program. This is done with partners – the University of Bremen for example. Today, Warsame works as a laboratory chemist within the Faculty of Biology/Chemistry at the university.
Mr. Warsame, do you remember your first day at the University of Bremen?
Of course! It was in the summer of 2014. I was 18 years old and it was the first day of my internship in the chemistry laboratories. When it was time for the 30-minute lunch break, I went outside with the other intern, Suhayb Osman. We had brought food with us and sat on the grass next to the Mensa cafeteria lake. I really took note of this moment. On the last day of our apprenticeship, I sat in exactly the same spot with Suhayb and asked him: “Do you remember when we sat here together?” That was a good feeling. At that point in time, I already knew that I would carry on work¬ing as a technician at the University of Bremen after my apprenticeship.
So it was the right thing to start the apprenticeship at the University of Bremen?
My mother always cited a Somalian saying. When translated it means something like: “Education is not everything, but without education everything is nothing.” That is why I think that it was luck that I had the opportunity to do the laboratory chemist apprenticeship. When I was a child, I wanted to become a doctor. However, I did not find it that interesting anymore after I completed work experience at a dentist’s practice in Germany. Instead, I thought about how I always found chemistry interesting at school. On the first day of my internship, in the frame of the entry qualification here, I was immediately allowed to carry out small experiments. That convinced me! I like to work practically.
So the path you chose at the university was the right one but was it also the easier one?
It was, of course, physically and mentally exhausting. At the beginning of my apprenticeship in 2014, I had only completed one year of German language lessons. I was also confronted by the German culture every day and had to try and understand the people here. I continually went to the language course whilst I was doing my internship and my apprenticeship. I wanted to keep at it because language is an important key to understanding the culture of a country. There was a great deal to do during my apprenticeship from 2015 to 2018: the practical apprenticeship in the laboratories for three days a week and then two days at the vocational school – and then the language course on top of that. But I had great support. For example from Peter Brackmann, my apprenticeship coordinator. I could always go to him with questions, regardless of whether they were personal or work-related.
“Moreover, I want to give the community everything back that they gave to me in terms of support.”
Instead of leaving after your apprenticeship, you decided to remain at the University of Bremen. Why?
I had the opportunity to work as a laboratory chemist in companies. However, I found it better to carry on discovering and researching new things with scientists. The work here is different every day and I continually learn. In the commercial sector, I would probably have to do the same things at the same work place every day. That does not appeal to me that much. Moreover, I want to give the community everything back that they gave to me in terms of support. The scientific sector is a good place for that.
You came to Bremen at the age of 17 from South Somalia. What was the first period in Bremen like for you?
Bremen is now my second home. I have lived here for over six years and have never wanted to move away. Back in 2013, everything was a big challenge for me. When I arrived here, I felt helpless like a newborn. It is fitting that the first time I celebrated my birthday was here. Of course, we liked to celebrate in Somalia but not birthdays. Everything was new and different here. Here are a few examples of what I had to cope with: I regularly received post from official offices in a language that I had not mastered. As a Somali, I also had to survive the German winter. Additionally, the facial expressions and body language of Germans are different to those of Somalis. In Somalia, it is a provocation if you look someone in the eye for longer during a conversation. I had to learn that it is meant with respect here and that it signals that you are listening attentively.
You have now settled well in Bremen. How did you overcome the challenge?
At the beginning, I was very dependent on support so that I would not fall out of the loop. Luckily, many people helped me. Naturally, I also had bad experiences but the positive ones clearly outweigh them. I am very grateful for that. I am the type of person who always tries to keep at things. For example, it was always clear to me that I would pass the apprenticeship exams – failing was not an option. I also have one rule: to enquire or ask for help twice is okay but if there is a third time, I should always try to do it on my own. That works quite well. It probably also helps that I am very curious and sociable. I like to talk to other people and treat everyone with respect, regardless of their origin or religion.
What plans do you have for the future?
I definitely want to continue working at the university. Maybe I will also complete advanced training and acquire an apprenticeship supervisor qualification. I would also like to do more sport. When I came to Bremen, I trained four times a week and was able to run 5 kilometers in 16 minutes. I just was not able to continue that training alongside my apprenticeship but I would really like to run a marathon one day.
After an internship at the University of Bremen, Zaki Bare Warsame started a dual training as a chemical laboratory assistant at the university and completed it in 2018.