Post by Rand Inaim & Mahmoud Abdelkareem
Our month officially started when we arrived at the airport and saw the entire German group there waiting for us and welcoming us. After the greetings we headed to our apartments. During our way home, huge areas of ‘green’ were all that our eyes could see! Green is everywhere! That was our first impression of Germany. We were surprised that we had to start the month with a very cold and rainy summer! Then the weather started getting better.
The month was full of new experiences and fun, but we will never forget our first experience with buses in Germany. As we took the bus for the first time to the university after half an hour, we were surprised that we came back to the same point we started from! I think one month was enough for us to understand how the buses work there! The day after, we took a local friend to the park in Siegen, so we wouldn’t get lost again! From there, we saw an overview of Siegen from a high point in the city, it looked very nice, green and full of architectural details. We would later come back to the same park with Ramsis and the whole group. We tried a traditional German potato salad dish for the first time, which Ramsis made for us.
Later the same week we took the train to Köln (Cologne), it was our first time in the city full of tourist attractions. It was a beautiful city where we saw the most beautiful architecture in Köln, the very old cathedral (the Dom), we also climbed over 530 stairs to get to the top of it and walked around while seeing Köln from over 100m high, with all of the city, it’s details and the Rhine River in our eyesight. Another thing every visitor should visit in this beautiful city is the chocolate museum ‘Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum’ where we saw the process of making chocolate and tried a little bit of chocolate as well. The Rhine River was a quiet and calm place to end the long day, we needed to sit and have some ice cream after this tiring day.
The second week was fun in general, it started on the ninth when we all went to watch a football match between Siegen and Schalke U23, we walked all the way to the stadium from Siegen and that was a nice experience (the street was packed with car dealers, and yes Porsche! In addition, we even saw a BMW i8 at the stadium). We started getting used to things around in the city, became familiar with the transportation system and started working on our projects. We began exploring things on our own to get more out of this calm city, some of us started searching for tours and activities that we could do as well.
In addition, this week was special to all of us, it was the week we met the Palestinian community here in Siegen, and oh boy were they welcoming, typical Palestinians! What we did not know is that all of these people were much more Palestinian than many Palestinians living in Palestine! That week they invited us to a barbecue in the woods, which was nice, they had Palestinian food, Palestinian music and many Palestinian people. What astonished us most about the Palestinians is the fact that they stick to their beliefs despite being so far away from Palestine and for such a long period. Moreover, not only do they stick to Palestine a lot, they also teach their children about Palestine, and the Palestinian situation. We were surprised when we saw kids as young as 10 years old who speak like us and know about Palestine as much as we do, even though they were born in Germany and have never been to Palestine or have been there only once. Even riding in their cars and listening to the traditional Palestinian music they were playing, made us feel like we were in the streets of Ramallah, we really felt like we were home and among our families whenever we were with them.
This was the week of adventure and new experiences. It all started when Ramsis took us all to try this amazing Italian restaurant near the university, and oh boy was it delicious. Then the adventure continued all the way to Phantasialand in Köln. We had to wake up early that day, at first, we did not really understand why, but then when we stood for more than 2 hours to get on a single ride it hit us and we discovered that it was a busy place. With record-breaking rides, heart dropping experiences and very good food it really is an adventures place that everyone who goes to Germany must visit.
Later that week, we were all invited to one of the German student’s house to have lunch there (Jasmine invited us). It was near Köln, and on the way there we stopped for a bit at Gamescom which was happening in the same period we were in Germany, and some of us went to see it! The lunch was something new, having German food in a German house was something we all wanted try. All the food was delicious and we felt like we were at home.
After that we went back to Köln to see the Gamescom festival which was at night, it was so much fun, there was music, games, photo booths and much more to see and do, we tried everything and listened to many performers sing that night, the fun continued until late into the night. We will not forget that day, it was the day we walked from Weidenau all the way back to our dorms after 3 am because there were no busses that late at night.
This was by far the hardest/saddest week we faced in our month in Germany; it was our fourth and final week. We were getting ready to pack our stuff and head back to Palestine. Before saying our final goodbyes, we had to prepare for the fab lab opening in Siegen University.
We spent a fair share of this week preparing for the fab lab opening, it was an opening to display the new equipment in the lab like the 3D printers and the laser cutter, but we would also showcase our projects to the visitors of the opening. We put tables outside the lab doors and displayed our projects to the people while they entered or left the lab opening. We (the documentation team) spent the days of this week collecting images and videos of the groups while they were working (in Palestine or here in Germany) to make a short movie about the projects, so people would see what we had accomplished in this exchange program.
Other groups showed what they achieved in different ways. The garbage team for example (Sondos, Ramsis, May and Dina) had actually baked some spoons made from bread, and they used a 3d printer to create a prototype, from which they build a mold. Then they used the mold to make the next version of edible spoons. And they had two kinds of flavored bread for people to taste!
Another great showcase of the work done on the projects is the live demo of the game that Basil, Jasmine and Moritz had made which amazed us all. It was a cultural exchange game, which would teach people about Palestine and Germany, it was not completely done. However, what was done of it was impressive and a lot people enjoyed trying it out for the first time.
The work of the refugee camp group (Al Amari group: Marios, Sarah, Renad, Sujood, Ali and Adham) was mostly done in workshops, so we showed their work in the video we made. In addition to that, they showed the posters and the maps they made in collaboration with the refugees in the workshops they had in Siegen University. The urban gardening team (David, Sarah, Yara and Ala`) also worked with the refugees, they had many workshops both in Palestine and in Germany, so we showed their work in the movie we had playing.
Finally the special needs group showed us the stickers they made and some photos of the work they did, which included putting up stickers in the streets, universities, shops and many places in Palestine and Germany, it was really nice to see how they had stickers and posters in multiple languages as well. In addition to that, they had many activities considering special needs people.
In addition to this week being full of happy and proud moments, it contained many sad heartbreaking moments for us as well. It was finally time to say our goodbyes. Goodbye to the people who made us feel welcomed and that we were between our families, goodbye to all the moments that made us laugh, goodbye to all the good experiences we got to enjoy in our month here in Germany that we couldn’t do in Palestine, and yes, goodbye to the super quick internet. It was not an easy thing to start preparing ourselves to leave after this month and after what we had in Germany with all the things we did there. As always we ended the week with a late visit to the river Sieg, it was our final destination each night before taking the last bus home. It used to be the place where we ate, talked, laughed, played cards, met people and drew many memories in our hearts for that “lovely” daily station.
Impressions / Final thoughts
“Yallah” exchange program has been a life-changing experience to all of us and at different aspects. What made it special that it was in such a developed country. Everything was totally new and different; the whole environment of Germany is so different from Palestine. The thing that made it also an opportunity where you can see, do and discover new things. Living a month away from home and family has also taught us how to be more independent, more outgoing and made us gain so much confidence. Moreover, this incredible experience was an opportunity to widen the perspectives and discover “new worlds”. It was also a great chance to meet people and share culture and thoughts.
We have no doubt that it was absolutely the most amazing experience we could have. What an experience this was. No words can describe this journey of discovery, fun, learning and personal growth with unforgettable lifelong memories.
Finally, we would like to thank the people who made this all possible. Our coordinators both at Birzeit University and at Siegen University, Dr. Iyad Tumar and Dominik Şubat (Al Mu`alim), our fellow German exchange students who opened up their hearts to all our actions, words and feelings, the Palestinian community in Germany who made us feel like we were in Palestine. This month has engraved something special in our hearts and shaped a special part of our lives too.
#lifelong memories ♥
#lifelong love 😎😍🙈