Syrian refugee obtains a bachelor's degree with the help of a scholarship

Ahmad Sami Qaddura has settled in in Germany
Ahmad Sami Qaddura has settled in in Germany © private

As he was growing up, Ahmad Sami Qaddura had two goals: he wanted to study Computer Science and to go on stage as an actor. His acting was only intended to be a hobby or to provide additional income. Just like the small jobs he had as an extra in TV series when he was still living with his family in Damascus. A lot has happened to the 24-year-old since then. He fled Syria and was able to start a new life in Germany thanks to some assistance.

A scholarship from the ‘Baden-Württemberg Programme supporting the studies of Syrian refugees’ enabled him to study Software Engineering. He has just started working at the software group SAP. One of his major dreams has therefore come true. The path to get there was not easy and totally different from how Qaddura might have imagined it in his childhood. Looking back, he says: ‘Any goal is achievable. Just don't give up.'

Fleeing with his brother

Ahmad Sami Qaddura grew up in Damascus. His mother comes from Syria, his father is Palestinian. The family is officially stateless. Qaddura was 14 years old when the war started in Syria in 2011. He was a good pupil and more interested in culture than in the political conflicts taking place around him. He had to serve in the military after receiving his school leaving certificate and his older brother was also facing conscription. Yet both of them found the idea of shooting at someone or of being shot themselves to be utterly abhorrent. The brothers decided to flee from Syria.

Their flight through the Syrian war zones and over the mountains towards Turkey lasted several weeks. Their plan was to work there as craftsmen to fund their onward journey. They wanted to get to Scandinavia or another European country to live in peace there until the war in Syria ends.

Learning German as quickly as possible

Ultimately their family had to send them money for the trip in a people smugglers’ boat. It was a perilous journey – Qaddura can’t swim. He landed on the Greek island of Lesbos, where he was stuck in a camp for 103 days. ‘That was the worst time of my life.’ Little food, no euros left and contact with the outside world only every fortnight. And yet he had a stroke of good fortune: a Greek lawyer assisted him. That was how the young Syrian came to Dortmund via Athens, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary in 2015.

Qaddura didn’t know Europe. He imagined life here to be how he had seen it in American films. He smiles as he talks about it, because that isn’t an accurate depiction, as he now knows. He wanted to learn German as quickly as possible to learn more about the people and the country in which he had ended up. And he found it awkward having to ask other people to translate for him. He’s the sort of person who approaches people openly and is not discouraged by bad experiences. ‘When I do something wrong, I always try toa learn from it.’

Intense preparation for his studies

Qaddura is making headway with this positive view of life. He is very grateful for his friendship with a German couple who helped him through the initial difficulties. The couple also told him about the Baden-Württemberg Programme supporting the studies of Syrian refugees, which is a special programme run by the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst – DAAD). He applied and was accepted after a selection procedure. He was able to take part in intensive German courses and various orientation seminars that prepared him for his studies.

Qaddura subsequently decided to study at Heilbronn University and obtained his bachelor’s degree in the standard study period of seven semesters. At the same time, he worked as a web developer with a working student contract at Bosch. He gratefully says that he learned ‘so, so much’ in the process.

After graduation and numerous applications, Qaddura finally also found a permanent job. He wasn’t concerned that it meant he would have to move. ‘You have to think in small steps.’ Soon he would like to apply for German citizenship and go on trips to explore Europe. He also hasn’t yet abandoned his dream of acting.

Further information

The supporting the studies of Syrian refugees is aimed at talented young people from this war-torn country who are capable of studying. It is implemented in cooperation with the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst – DAAD). The programme includes intensive German courses and seminars dealing with aspects like time management or conversational skills. Ahmad Sami Qaddura is one of 91 scholarship holders who have been funded since 2015.

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