up2date. Das Onlinemagazin der Universtiät Bremen

Khaled Has Arrived Safely and Settled in Bremen

The story of a former Syrian refugee who is now studying computer science at Bremen University

Campus Life

Khaled Swaidan’s distinctive feature is his unusual hairstyle. On the one side, his hairdresser, a Turk from Bremen’s Neustadt district, has cut a section of hair similar to a parting and kept the hair relatively short whilst the top displays an unusually high quiff.

Khaled, his name “Chaled” is pronounced with a “hissed” “Cha”, speaks very good German. The 22-year-old completed the HERE preparatory course. HERE stands for Higher Education Refugees Entrance – a joint program of Bremen’s universities whereby refugees can learn the German language and prepare for their studies. Khaled was very lucky. The Bremen “Jürgens-Stiftung – Chance auf ein neues Leben” (Jürgens Foundation – Chance for a New Life) chose his application and granted approval for a grant for him. “I get 150 euros a month from the foundation as well as the BaföG student grant,” says the refugee explaining his finances.

He shares a flat in Neustadt, near the university, with his brother who is 20 years-old and in the 11th grade and wants to complete his Abitur (A-levels) in Bremen. “It’s (the flat) really nice,” he enthuses. The job center already started paying the rent before his studies began. His brother also receives a student grant. “I really like it in Bremen, particularly the area where I live,” says Khaled. “The Turks’ culture is similar to ours, some also speak Arabic.” There are also more mosques in that area than he thought – he has found a piece of his homeland here.

Father lost his business

Where and how did he live before? He suddenly looks a little sad and wistful. He misses his parents and both his brothers who stayed in the war-torn country. They used to live well. “My father had a farming business,” says Khaled. “We had a higher standard of living.” With his Abitur grade of 1.6 he was able to study exactly the subject he wanted to, medicine, at an expensive private college. “I’m going to become a doctor and can help others” – this was his motivation at the time. “But then there was the revolution and my father lost his business,” he says sadly. His brother was the first to escape to Europe followed by Khaled. He set off on his journey from Idlib, in the North West, on the border to Turkey.

First in Bavaria

Khaled doesn’t say much about the escape only that he had a really bad night in Turkey as the station didn’t open until the morning and it wasn’t possible to get accommodation. “I spent seven hours wandering around,” he recalls. He was allowed to sleep in a mosque for a bit. The second terrible experience was on a Greek island but he doesn’t want to talk about that. The first place he was aiming for was Bavaria, a small village by the Chiemsee lake. “Eight of us lived in a four-room house here,” says the computer science student. Far off the beaten track and with nothing to do … “Of course, we fought,” he says.

Flat in Neustadt

He spent six months in South Germany before going to his brother in Bremen. He still feels that it’s almost like a miracle that he has the flat in Neustadt. “I wrote more than 50 e-mails, none of which were successful, before I got the flat. His local supervisor took care of the viewing and the rental agreement and Khaled and his brother are very grateful to her for this.

Good at mathematics

Now he has to see his studies through to the end. “I don’t find it difficult to solve problems and am good at mathematics,” says the scholar. The tasks are the crunch point for him. “To understand them I translate them into English first and then into Arabic. It sometimes takes me two hours.” He also can’t always follow his teacher’s fluency but Khaled Swaidan grits his teeth – he knows he has to manage it. “My parents were so worried about me and am now so relieved that I’ve started studying. I am in contact with them every day.” His vision is that the whole family will follow him and come to Bremen where he feels he has arrived safely and is settled.

Only unhealthy food

The young man who describes himself as a family person, wants to stop the interview. “I want to cook something for my brother.” “What are you having? Chickpeas, lamb, chicken, coriander, cardamom, pomegranates?” “Not what you think, we only eat unhealthy food,” he laughs.

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