"We live here with respect and love": Students experience Berlin through a refugee's eyes on #DMUglobal trip

Nursing, Midwifery, Criminology and Policing students from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) took part in a walking tour where they explored Berlin’s Sonnenallee led by a Syrian refugee.

The students are in the city as part of #DMUglobal’s ambitious mass trip which has seen groups of students travel to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Berlin to find out more about the issues facing refugees and providing hands-on volunteering support.

Sonnenallee group photoThe group explored Sonnenallee with their guide and ate at a Syrian restaurant there

Sonnenallee connects the districts of Neuköln and Treptow-Köpenick in the southeast of Berlin. 5km long, the street is a hub for the city’s refugees due to the high number of thriving Arabic shops and restaurants.

On Wednesday morning the students met outside Sharehaus Refugio, a community centre where refugees and locals live and work together. Residents can stay for up to 15 months, during which time they can begin to build a life for themselves in their new home.

As the tour began, the guide (who asked not to be named) spoke in Arabic to the students who couldn’t understand what he was trying to tell them.

After five minutes, he then began speaking to them in perfect English, he told them that by doing this he was showing them the challenges refugees have to overcome. He said: “We haven’t bridged communications – this is refugees’ problem in Germany.”

The group proceeded to walk down Sonnenallee, stopping at different points for the guide to share some of his experiences since his arrival in Germany. He said: “We live here with respect and love. Why are we here? It is a German decision. They opened the door when a lot of countries closed it.”

Sonnenallee sign editedSonnenallee is a hub for Berlin's refugees

The students also learned about the cultural differences between Germany and Syria and the challenge this created for their guide.

He said: “In Germany yes means yes and no means no. In Syria this is not always the case. If someone says no they may actually mean yes! Germans are more straightforward.”

When the tour finished, the students enjoyed falafel and shawarma for lunch at a Syrian restaurant.

Senior lecturer in Nursing Julian Stribling said: “We are here today to hear about the first-hand experiences of people who fled conflict areas like Syria.

“We think this is a really important part of students’ reflective practice because in the future they’re going to be working with some of the most vulnerable people in society. Hearing these first-hand accounts is a really valuable experience that they’re not going to be able to see in the classroom.”

Midwifery student Megan Harding said: “I really enjoyed getting to see some of the sights around Berlin that are important to refugees and learning how important integration is for them.”

Adult Nursing student Eddy Ileto said: “One of the things I enjoyed about this trip is the fact that I got to walk around with the tour guide and he explained to us what it’s like to be a Syrian refugee. We walked through the streets and it feels weird because you go from one place which feels like Germany into another place which feels like Syria. It’s interesting, everyone should go!”

Find out more about the #DMUglobal trip here.


Posted on Friday 14th September 2018

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