1) Where are you located and what do you do?
I am located in Solingen, North Rhine-Westphalia where I'm working in a psycho-social project where we have 10 clients. Each client has his or her own apartment. What I do together with my colleagues is to help the clients in the daily lives: shopping, doctors’ appointment arrangements, group coordination.
2) What brought you to Germany and how long have you been here?
I have been in Germany for three-and-a-half months. I visited the country in the summer of 2012. Though it was only a holiday, I felt challenged by the language because I was not able to do anything alone without the help of someone speaking English or French.
Having been exposed to different cultures during my studies, I always wanted to study abroad in order to get a better understanding of other cultures but also to see how psychology is done in the other parts of the world. Germany was at the top of my list of where I wanted to study but I found myself with a lack of language knowledge.
Therefore after researching online on VoluNation’s www.ausland.org, I decided to do a Bundesfreiwilligendienst (BFD) with two main objectives in mind. On the one hand I wanted to learn German and prepare myself for graduate studies, and on the other hand, I wanted to understand how psychology and psychiatry work here in Germany.
3) How did you land your job and do you have tips for anyone seeking similar work?
I first tried internet pages to get information on different organizations, but was not successful because many organizations wanted to have face-to-face interviews with me which was too expensive. I would have to fly from Rwanda and come to Germany just for an interview.
Through my contacts in Germany, I got to know an organization that interviewed me online. This made it possible to get a placement. I then quickly started a German course in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda.
This course (A1), German for beginners, was one of the criteria to be granted a visa to enter Germany for a period of longer than three months. I successfully completed the course and passed the test.
The organization then found a placement for me in Solingen. My visa application was successful and I landed in Düsseldorf and started to work in Solingen.
My tips for someone seeking the same work would be to learn German, find an organization that does what you are interested in and apply to as many organizations as possible.
4) Is it important for you to be able to speak German in your position?
I think you make things difficult for yourself if you don’t speak German. In my position, it is important to speak German as I work directly with people and it is important that I understand what they say and what they mean. This motivated me to learn German very quickly, although I don’t understand everything but I understand what they mean.
Understanding all the details would be great. But all in all, German is important in my position.
5) What are the best and worst parts about working in Germany?
My position is a volunteer work and I can‘t compare it to the normal working conditions.
However, I have received a great welcome, integration in the team and my colleagues and my boss helped me to adapt and integrate in the philosophy of the work and of my project. Worst parts, I have not experienced any, but I think if you don’t speak German, then there is less chance to socialize and make friends and this is the worst I can imagine up to now.
6) Do you plan on staying?
So far I am planning on going back in three years. After my volunteer work, I am planning to do my Masters in Germany and this will take two years. So in three years I will want to go back but you never know what the future brings.