Building Bridges

Narrative profiles on migration by twelfth graders from Evangelisches Gymnasium in Mühlhausen.

Narrative profiles on migration by twelfth graders from Evangelisches Gymnasium in Mühlhausen.


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Building Bridges

Narrative profiles on migration by

twelfth graders from Evangelisches

Gymnasium in Mühlhausen


In the autumn of 2023, students in Katrin Stedefeld's

twelfth-grade English class at Evangelisches

Gymnasium in Mühlhausen participated in a workshop

series about transatlantic immigration.

The project began with an examination of German migration to

the United States from 1816 to 1914. A special focus was placed on

John A. Roebling, a former Mühlhausen resident who immigrated

to New York and later engineered the Brooklyn Bridge, which

would become an icon of progress and innovation in the United

States. Building upon this shared transatlantic history, the

students turned their attention to present-day immigration to and

from Mühlhausen by engaging with members of the local

community and interviewing them about their unique

perspectives on this topic.

These interviews served as the basis for creating narrative profiles

that document the personal experiences of each interviewee and

provide insights into the challenges and opportunities presented

by immigration in their respective communities. Whether

migration occurred recently or generations ago, within or across

borders, across town or across the world, by choice or through

force, for a better life or for refuge: The narrative profiles that

follow offer a glimpse into the stories of change and movement

that shape the students' community today.

Two Countries,

One Person

Lukas Nestler interviewed Kusal about his family's

immigration story and about what it means to belong

to two different places.

Kusal was born in Sri Lanka, a South Asian island country located in the

Indian Ocean. But now, Kusal lives in Mühlhausen, a city in Germany. He

is nineteen years old and likes to exercise.

Kusal and his family immigrated when he was just one year old, with his

father taking on various jobs to secure their future. Kusal’s father

worked in a cucumber factory in Russia for three months before going

to Italy, after which he eventually settled in Germany and found work as

a dishwasher. His final move brought him to Mühlhausen to work in a

friend’s restaurant, and eventually he was able to bring his family to

Germany as well.

But why did they leave Sri Lanka? Kusal explained: “My father was

looking for a better job.” That’s one of the most common reasons why

people immigrate.

Kusal noted that Sri Lanka and Germany have significant cultural

differences, such as how people address one another and how people

interact with each other. He explained that in Sri Lanka, “you address a

woman as ‘sister’ and a man as ‘brother.’” He also shared that the sense

of community is more significant than in Germany. Kusal says that in Sri

Lanka, people live together like one big family. However, Kusal also said

that the infrastructure in Sri Lanka is lacking, with chaotic traffic and

broken roads. He added: “I don't want to drive there!" Kusal noted that

the legal system in Germany is also superior to that of Sri Lanka, citing

an example where gas station workers went on strike for better working

conditions, causing a massive traffic jam because no one could refuel

their car. In the end, an army group threatened the workers to stop

striking. Kusal said: “I don’t want to experience something like that.”

Since moving to Germany, Kusal has experienced some difficulties due

to his skin color. He has been the target of racially insensitive

comments. Once, in elementary school, he was eating a chocolate

muffin when someone said: “He’s eating himself.” Although that incident

was years ago, there have been others like that. Kusal said: “I got used

to people staring at me, but it sucks that they don’t see more than the

color of my skin.”

Despite these struggles, Kusal is optimistic about his future in Germany.

He plans to complete an apprenticeship, find a job, and enjoy his life. In

addition, he said: “It would be nice if my cousin could come to

Germany.” However, that won’t be easy, because there are many

regulations that must be followed.

When asked for advice for those who wish to immigrate to Germany,

Kusal suggests: “You should learn the language and have an open


Lukas Nestler

Immigrating for Love

Andrea Plenert spoke to Josephine Marschall about

staying in touch with one's culture, even in a new place.

Would you move to a foreign country for love? Leave everything

behind and start over? Admittedly, this idea can sound very romantic.

But relationships do not always work out in the end — and then what?

Andrea Plenert came to Germany in 1982 when she was just 22 years

old. She had met a man who lived in Munich and wanted to visit him for

a couple of months. “If someone had told me that I would end up

staying here in Germany, I would have called them crazy,” she told me.

The couple got married and Andrea moved into her partner’s

apartment. However, they later split up and got divorced only a few

years later. Instead of going back home to France, Andrea decided to

stay and started studying in Göttingen.

Andrea said that it was not very hard to settle in there. Especially in

cities with universities, it is easy to meet new people. A lot of people

from different cultures live in Göttingen and they make the city

colourful and lively. The only condition is to be open minded. “If you try

new things, it can be really exciting,” she said. Andrea believes she was

lucky to end up in such a dynamic city like Göttingen.

According to her, setting foot in a smaller town would not have been as

easy. Something that took a lot of weight off her shoulders was the fact

that she was already able to speak German fluently. In the specific

region in France where she is from, multiple languages are spoken and

her maternal grandmother was from Germany.

Sometimes she regrets her decision a little bit: "I've got Heidi-

Syndrome, everything is way too flat here,” she says — but she can

laugh about it. Mrs. Plenert feels more at home in the south of

Germany, where there are more mountains. Staying in touch with the

culture, and especially with French food, is very important to her, so she

and her new partner visit France frequently.

She still lives in Göttingen, but said that in general, Germans still seem a

little bit strange to her. She misses the French way of living and the

“carefree lifestyle,” as she calls it. So occasionally, she brings a little bit

of the culture into her everyday life. In an anecdote, she shared that

she always leaves the last sip of a drink at the bottom of her glass,

because that is what they do in France.

To answer the question whether it was easy to get a visa, Mrs. Plenert

answered that once you are registered in a German city, you have

almost the same rights as a native, thanks to the European Union.

Despite all the little differences and strange things, she would not move

back to France. She started working in a special needs centre and said

she has found a sense of community there: “You get kind of attached to

‘your’ people.” She also mentioned that sadly, her parents and brother

have passed away, so she has no one to move back for and would not

want to anyways: “But it’s alright. I have found my life and my family

here in Germany. This is my home.”

Josephine Marschall

Living in Denmark in

the Future

Carolin Alberti told Eva Guthaus about her exchange

year in Denmark and how this experience shaped her

plans for the future.

“We have to appreciate this country more." This is a quote from Carolin

Alberti about her exchange year. She is a seventeen-year-old German

student and spent one year in Denmark from 2021 to 2022 via the

organization AFS Intercultural Programs.

In an interview, Ms. Alberti talked about her experiences, troubles, and

impressions from her year abroad. Of course, the language was a

significant issue, because it was completely new to her. She did not

know anyone, so in the beginning, “it was only myself,” she recalled.

Finding new friends was difficult as Ms. Alberti could only speak English,

making her “the special one." So it was up to her to approach others.

Another obstacle Ms. Alberti faced was problems with her host family.

As a result, she changed her host family twice due to issues that arose.

“Acceptance and openness to the people, the culture, in general the

new things are really important," she said. This is what the German

student learned first in her exchange year. She calls this “advice

number one” and considers it the most important factor she learned

during her exchange year. She also advised against having too much

contact with one's family to avoid homesickness and to become more

involved in the new experiences. Of course, “there are always bad

things you can experience," but despite the potential challenges that

come with living abroad, Ms. Alberti recommends remaining positive

and trying over and over again. Ms. Alberti loved her exchange year and

says she would definitely do it again.

During the year, she found lots of friends, learned much about Denmark

and the lifestyle there, and made many memories. While abroad, she

noticed that Danish culture puts a big focus on spending time with family

and enjoying the small things are important in life: “It´s called hygge," she

explained. Ms. Alberti also found that Danes are tend to be relaxed and

mostly positive about things, as opposed to Germans, who she thinks are

more structured. In her opinion, the health and education system is also

much better than in Germany. Overall, she explained: “I would rather

choose Denmark over Germany," an impression that sums up both her

exchange year and Denmark very well.

When asked how the exchange year affected her, she replied: “This year

had a bigger effect on me than anything else in my life." Various

completely new and different situations caused Ms. Alberti to grow so

much as a person. She learned to handle difficult situations and

developed new skills and personal traits.

She shared that she would definitely recommend doing an exchange

year, an au pair job, studying or living abroad, or something like that,

because you can only gain from the experience. Even if the year or new

part of your life does not go as you wish or planned, in every case you will

learn and earn something new – experiences, lessons, memories and

maybe even friends for a lifetime.

Ms. Alberti spent a year abroad to “come out of my comfort zone and

grow as a person," as she put it. However, she also talked about Pakistani

classmates that came to Denmark because of war in their home country.

There are several and different reasons for going to another country.

Some conditions are pushing people out of their country like war or

politics, and other reasons are pulling people to a country, for example

family members, or the ability to practice one´s religion freely.

Carolin Alberti changed in her exchange year so much – in a positive

way. In her opinion, life in Denmark could be much better than Germany,

because of the lifestyle and the attitude of the people there, the health

and education system, the beautiful nature of Scandinavia, and much

more. These are the reasons why she is firmly convinced: “I see myself

living in Denmark in the future”.

Eva Guthaus

Sometimes Work

is Beautiful

Marie Probst interviewed Mrs. Pollmeier about her

experiences working alongside seasonal agricultural


Work can be difficult sometimes, but it can also be rewarding when one

can help others achieve greater freedom. When asked about her job,

Mrs. Pollmeier, a fifty-two-year-old employee of an asparagus yard,

shared, “If I can help others through my work, then I feel more fulfilled

and motivated to go to work every day.” During the summer, individuals

from different countries, particularly from Romania and Poland, come to

harvest asparagus at her workplace.

Mrs. Pollmeier finds her job particularly fulfilling when the seasonal

workers arrive in the summer. However, she admits that communication

with employees from other countries can sometimes be challenging

due to language barriers: “One of the hardest things about the

employees from other countries is that sometimes they don’t

understand me and sometimes I don’t understand them,” she explains.

Because of the language barrier, she has tried to learn some Polish and

Romanian, but she can only understand a few words in each language.

Fortunately, her boss can speak Polish fluently, so he translates

important information.

Mrs. Pollmeier works alongside immigrants on a daily basis at work. She

finds most of them pleasant to work with and appreciates the little gifts

they bring for her. However, there are some who refuse to work with

her, which can be challenging. Mrs. Pollmeier explained that workers

are paid based on the quality of the asparagus they harvest and how

quickly they do it, rather than by the hour. This incentivizes them to

work efficiently and can lead to higher earnings for those who work

hard. “One year, one went home with over four thousand Euros,” Mrs.

Pollmeier shared, while others have earned “only four hundred.” It

seems that this payment system is not widely known outside those who

work in asparagus harvesting.

Many immigrants who come here are often seeking better pay, though

not all of them earn less than in their home countries. Many of these

individuals do not have health insurance, which is often too expensive

back at home. They come to Germany because they can receive the

same health insurance as German citizens. At Mrs. Pollmeier’s

workplace, the workers are also given a place to stay for a minimum

amount of pay, and they must only cover their own food costs.

Mrs. Pollmeier not only helps immigrants with work-related issues, but

also with personal problems. She enjoys helping them in any way she

can. Alone, many workers might feel that their problems are too big to

handle. She has also kept in contact with several Polish workers when

they returned home and tried to help them with issues in their personal

lives. As a result, Mrs. Pollmeier has gained insight into why they chose

to move to Germany.

Sometimes, Mrs. Pollmeier thinks about quitting her job because of

difficulties with her other colleagues. But when she reflects on

everyone she has met over the years, she is reminded that her passion

for helping others outweighs any negative experiences. She is

committed to her friends, her job, and her love for assisting people,

making it an easy decision for her to remain in her current position:

“Working with people from other countries can be challenging, but I

love it. Sometimes my work is made beautiful because of them.”

Marie Probst

The Lucky Streak

Olivia Timmermann interviewed Hasan Yousef about

leaving Syria, seeking refuge, and building a life in


Refugee boat. Balkan route. Refugee camp. Everyone has a clear

picture in mind while reading these words, because everyone knows

what they mean. In 2015, the great wave of refugees began and

thousands of fugitives from Syria and other Arabic countries arrived in

Germany due to the war in Syria. It was a dynamic time that left its mark

on many people, especially on those who experienced it, such as Hasan

Yousef. He is a 40-year-old Syrian immigrant from Damascus. Mr.

Yousef timed his journey right, seized the opportunity, and fled from

Damascus to Mühlhausen via the Balkan route.

Day by day, the unrest in Syria intensified and Mr. Yousef knew he had

to make up his mind soon. He said: “I didn’t plan my escape, it was kind

of spontaneous. It was that one night that I started packing only the

bare necessities. The next morning I woke up very early and left my

apartment. The moment I pulled the door shut, I knew I had closed it

forever.” Mr. Yousef had not told his parents or his siblings that he was

going to leave. He admitted that he felt fear, uncertainty, and doubt

because he did not know what to expect or what was going to happen.

The most difficult thing for him was leaving his family, not knowing if he

would ever see them again.

Mr. Yousef was aware that he had decided to take an uncertain and

unknown route. Germany was his destination and he “was ready to

leave everything in Syria to live in peace again, where my future would

be stable." On the question of how the journey went, his face became

serious. Mr. Yousef answered: “It was awful. The most frightful part was

the overloaded boat. We were crossing the Mediterranean Sea

between Turkey and Greece. No food and no water. We drifted on the

sea for days.” There were many other men, women, and even children

with him on the boat. The nights were hard and was constantly afraid

that the boat might sink. “The journey to Germany was like playing the

lottery, because no one knew what would happen. We were just ready

to die.”

Luckily, Mr. Yousef made it. He arrived in Germany and his new life

began. Many people, and the government, welcomed him and many

other refugees and tried to provide them with a good start in Germany.

But it was not that easy, and he was faced with difficulties. One problem

was his registration and all the paperwork that had to be done. Another

issue—the biggest challenge—was learning the German language.

Mr. Yousef said that he often felt depressed because he had lost nearly

everything. “In Damascus, I had my family, a good job, a flat and here I

had nothing," he explained. Fortunately, Mr. Yousef became integrated

into a group of German friends who helped him learn German, helped

with his first move into another flat, and assisted him with finding a job.

Today, he says that through the migration, his friends helped him to

trust and find himself again in order to rebuild a new life in a new

culture. He says is sure he had a lucky streak.

Olivia Timmermann

Broadening Our


Jörg and Ramona Zimmermann told Laura Kolwa

about their experiences living abroad in Shenyang,


If you had the opportunity to go to China to work there for two years,

would you do it? The Zimmermann family, who lives close to Munich,

was confronted with this question in 2012 and they embarked on the

adventure of going to China.

Jörg and Ramona Zimmermann studied in Freiberg before they moved

to Bavaria. There, Mr. Zimmermann worked in a foundry for BMW. China

had a big market for expensive car brands back then and BMW wanted

to expand to China with an engine plant. These circumstances gave Mr.

Zimmermann the opportunity to work in Shenyang for two years and

help build the engine plant.

Two years before that started, Mr. and Mrs. Zimmermann discussed the

plan and Mrs. Zimmermann agreed to move abroad. Then, they told

their kids about the idea and the family took a one-week-long “lookand-see”

trip to China, so they could explore and learn about the

culture through an intercultural training. After two years of preparation,

the family finally arrived in Shenyang in August 2014. Then, their new life

began. Mr. Zimmermann spent his days working at the foundry and Mrs.

Zimmermann organized their daily life and took a Chinese course. The

kids, Elsa and Volkmar, went to an international school, where Mrs.

Zimmermann later worked.

The family shared many things that surprised them in China. As one

example, Mr. Zimmerman said: “Chinese construction workers are

incredibly fast with building. If a road needs to be repaired, it happens

immediately and they work very efficiently.” Mrs. Zimmermann remarked

that there are many skyscrapers and huge malls in China: “When you go

to a store, you have to imagine Karstadt times ten," she said. There are

big malls for just one product and the stores are even open on


The Zimmermann family also described other differences they found in

China, such as transportation. “The cabs do not just stand around, but

are constantly driving. You just have to stand on the sidewalk and one

will come," said Mr. Zimmermann. Train journeys are also different than

in Germany, as security is a very high priority in China. Train tickets are

typically bought online, and before even entering the train station, the

passengers' tickets and passports are checked and the baggage is

screened. The Zimmermann family found that the trains were extremely

punctual and pleasant to ride. Plus, because of all the surveillance

measures, crimes rarely occur.

The Zimmermanns also found that the people in China are different

from most Germans. For example, Chinese families are often close-knit

and families usually do not invite others to their homes. Furthermore,

the Zimmermanns reported that many Chinese people wanted to take

photos with them because they looked so different and they had two

blonde children at a time when China still had a one-child policy.

As they settled in, the Zimmermanns enjoyed learning all about a new

culture. The only problem was communication. Chinese people do not

usually speak English, and Chinese is a hard language to learn. Mrs.

Zimmermann learned the basics in her Chinese class, but Mr.

Zimmermann did not learn Chinese. “There are four different ways to

pronounce a letter and that’s way too complicated for me," he said.

Even the same word can mean two very different things: "'Ma” can

stand for either a woman or a horse," Mr. Zimmermann recalled. But

restaurants in China often have pictures on their menus, so they could

still order food without speaking Chinese.

During their two years in China, the Zimmermanns did not only explore

Shenyang. They also visited Beijing, Shanghai, Bangkok, Seoul, Hong

Kong, Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines. By the time they came

back to Germany in 2016, they had many memories and had many

stories to tell. They say that those two years broadened their horizons

and that they have evolved as human beings. In February 2021, they

made the decision to go back to Shenyang for three years, beginning in

March 2023. This time, they will go without children and to another

district, so that they can get to know China anew after seven years


Laura Kowla

From Ukraine to


Johanna Rösner wrote about Maria Plakntyna, who

fled the war in Ukraine to settle in Germany with her


What is like to flee from Ukraine to Germany? In the early morning of

February 24, 2022, Russia started its war against Ukraine in an attempt

to occupy the country. Since then, many people have left Ukraine out

of fear and insecurity. Many of them come to Germany. So too did three

sisters named Maria Plakntyna, 21, Solomiya, 19, and Katja, 17. They came

to a small community in Mühlhausen.

Their journey began in February, when Maria visited her sister

Miroslawa, who had already been living in Mühlhausen for several years,

working at a hotel. The visit was a birthday gift from their parents, who

live in Lwiw, a city in western Ukraine that is home to around 700,000

people. Their mother works as an English teacher at a university, and

their father is an engineer, a background which has helped the family

settle in Germany as they can speak English very well.

After the war began, Maria´s parents stayed in Ukraine. Miroslawa joined

her parents in Lwiw because she wanted to help them, while Maria,

Solomiya, and Katja were sent to Germany for their safety. Miroslawa

found a family with a small farm in a nearby village who was willing to

take in refugees from Ukraine. The family also had three daughters who

were the same ages as Maria, Solomiya, and Katja. The sisters arrived at

the farm on April 6, 2022. They said of the experience: “We have found

a second family."

Later on, Miroslawa was able to find a new home for them in

Mühlhausen, and they moved into an apartment at the end of July.

Despite the challenges of being in a new country, the sisters try to lead

a normal life and work hard for a better future. Katja graduated from

online school and plans to study medicine online at a university in Kiev.

Maria is studying journalism online, too.

Every Sunday, the sisters attend church services, where they enjoy

singing and participating in organizing the service. Recently, they even

took part in a community excursion to Naumburg. Together with a

young woman, they create recitals with modern Christian songs in

Germany, English, and Ukrainian. The sisters have found joy in these

activities, saying that it has been a "very fun" and fulfilling experience

for them.

By building new relationships through the church congregation, Maria,

Solomiya, and Katja have lots of contact with others and have often felt

comfortable in their new home. While they are grateful for the

community they have found in Mühlhausen, the sisters still hope to

explore more of what Germany has to offer. They are eager to visit

larger cities and meet new people, as well as to continue their studies

and pursue their dreams. They can even imagine staying in Germany

and building a new life there. But above all, Maria and her sisters hope

to one day be reunited with their parents and celebrate Ukrainian

Christmas together in early January.

Johanna Rösner

Immigration to Latvia

Nastassja interviewed Mr. Werner about his decision to

move to Latvia and the importance of feeling at home.

This story is not about a grandiose person. Rather, it is a story about an

outwardly simple man named Mr. Werner. He grew up in a small village

in Thuringia with his older sister and deaf parents. His mother, who

provided the only real safe space in his life, died when he was a

teenager. In the view of this turning-point in his young life and the lack

of support from the rest of his family, he had to grow up independently.

Mr. Werner said of his past: “Knowing how hard life can be, which you

naturally only experience as an adult, came to me far too soon.” Mr.

Werner later moved to Munich and started building roads. He planned

where roads should be built and rebuilt and eventually founded his own


Mr. Werner is an authentic person who often speaks his mind without

worrying about how he might appear to other people. Now, how did he

come into contact with migration? He sarcastically said that he “is

accidentally married to a Latvian woman.” This led him to discover and

appreciate the hidden beauty of Latvia. The decisive push factor that

brought him to Latvia was his dissatisfaction with Germany and

Germans. In addition, he was living in a cramped apartment with his wife

and two young children.

The young family moved after Mr. Werner’s wife, who studied

bioinformatics, secured a job in Riga, the capital of Latvia. Compared to

Germany, Latvia offered better property prospects, more scenic charm,

and fewer crowds. When asked about the major difficulties in the

immigration process and what his worries were, Mr. Werner shared: “The

positive point was that I did not have to adapt to the society, as it was in

West Germany. Learning the language and ongoing money troubles

were the biggest hurdles." An additional challenge was that Mr. Werner

still had work to do in Germany, so he had to commute back and forth

between Latvia and Germany for a long time. However, he now only

misses the good bread and Asian restaurants in Germany, as he can

find everything else he likes in Latvia, though on a smaller scale.

When asked about his perception of the Latvian mentality, Mr. Werner

explained that he finds Latvians more reserved, nature-loving, and

traditional than Germans. “Germans,” he says, “can be noticed from afar,

as they speak comparatively more and very loudly.” Mr. Werner

communicates in English most of the time, but he has one German

friend in his surroundings. His community has made him feel at home in


Community is by far the most important thing when we look back at Mr.

Werner’s biography. After facing the devastating loss of his mother in

his younger years and the challenges of commuting back and forth

from Germany to Latvia, Mr. Werner expresses gratitude for his

immigration to Latvia. While not every problem that he faced in the past

has vanished, the privilege of seeing his little sons all the time, living in a

beautiful environment, and feeling free at home is, as he puts it, “a nice



A Young Person's Plan

Benjamin Duczek interviewed Franziska Graser about

her preparations to move abroad after graduating from

high school.

When discussing immigration, most people tend to focus on those who

have already moved to Germany. However, few pay attention to those

who are still planning to do so. This is exactly the case of Franziska

Graser, a 17-year-old student from Austria who is already planning her

move to Germany.

Franziska has never been scared by the idea of going abroad. She has

already visited many countries and even spent five months in Canada

in 2022. “You get to experience many different aspects on your

journey,” she said, sitting in front of a map where she can scratch off

the countries she has visited.

Franziska is already planning her next adventure: moving to Germany

after she graduates. When asked why she chose this country, she said

that it might be easier to adjust, as the culture is very similar to Austria’s.

“Of course, this will also affect the experience I’m going to have,” she


The main reason why Franziska wants to move to Germany is her search

for more personal freedom. “I love my family, but I also need space for

myself and don’t need my life being interrupted due to little things,”

Franziska explains. She hopes that distance will help her achieve this

goal, but she also sees the move as an opportunity to meet German

friend’s she's made online and to see her boyfriend more often. Besides

that, Franziska hopes to study in Germany and set up a life there. “I

hope that I can manage to get started over there,” she shares. While

some people may view this as quite a big step for someone so young,

Franziska is determined to follow through with her plan.

As an Austrian, Franziska does not think she will encounter significant

difficulties in being accepted by the German community. “Due to my

origin, I won’t have it as difficult as immigrants from other cultures,” she

said when thinking about her fears for the future. “Hopefully, I won’t be

reduced to Austrian stereotypes,” she said laughing, as she explains

that many people think Austrians live in the mountains with their cows

and speak a dialect that no ‘normal’ person could understand. At the

same time, she hopes that she will not lose her slight dialect. “This is

something that defines me and belongs to me. It is really important for

me,” she explains.

Of course, there are risks that come along with such a big plan, but

Franziska tries to focus on the positive aspects. She recognizes that

while Austria and Germany are similar in many ways, there are still major

differences, such as in the legal system. “Before taking such a big step,

you need to educate yourself about the place you want to go,”

Franziska said, “and of course, you need to start saving money as soon

as possible.” For many people, the fear of being alone can be daunting.

But even for this situation, advises: “It is really important to go out and

get to know people. You will find friends who can help you fight the


When asked about home-sickness, she shared that she will surely miss

things from her home. But Franziska plans to visit Austria often,

especially for skiing trips. “In this time, I can also escape the serious and

strict Germans,” she jokes.

Benjamin Duczek

An Aspiring Soccer


Rishabh Malhotra spoke to Nathan Bomberg about

cultural adjustment, identity, and belonging.

Rishabh Malhotra, an eighteen-year-old Indian soccer player, came to

Germany in 2019 to make his dream come true: becoming a

professional soccer player in a major soccer league. Although born in

San Diego, California to Indian parents, his family moved back to India

when he was just three months old so his father could pursue a new job

opportunity. Throughout his childhood in India, Rishabh spoke English

at home and in school.

Rishabh has wanted to become a professional soccer player since he

was a little boy. To fulfill this dream, he moved to the boarding school

“Soccer City” in Lengenfeld, Germany, where he is currently the captain

of the B-Juniors team, playing as a midfielder.

In Germany, Rishabh sees better opportunities for success than in

India, due to the country’s major soccer league, the Bundesliga, which

has a worldwide reputation. When asked if he feels at home in

Germany, Rishabh answered that he does, but he also feels a

connection to the United States and India because his family still

resides there.

In Germany, there is often the belief that immigrants should fully

culturally adjust to the host country. When asked what he thinks about

that mindset, Rishabh said: “Immigrants are expected to leave behind

their previous identities and fully assimilate. I do not agree.” Instead, he

believes immigrants should expand their identity with German aspects

of living. He values respect for the law and human rights, and believes

that cultural adjustment should not involve the loss of identity.

Despite feeling at home in Germany, Rishabh is still not sure if he fully

belongs here. He sometimes lacks cultural context and has difficulty

understanding certain dialects.

When asked if being an immigrant has affected his life in Germany,

Rishabh said: “The majority of the people here are very polite, but there

are also a few racist people. I have even been called the n-word, only

because I have dark-colored skin.” Some other people have made fun

of his accent, but after nearly three and a half years in Germany,

Rishabh speaks very well. He is now nearly fluent German, a skill which

he is proud of.

When asked if he would like to obtain German citizenship, Rishabh

responded positively: “It would make it easier for me to come back to a

German league after I transfer to a club in England, for example.” So his

answer was a clear “yes.” Since his arrival in 2019, Rishabh has learned a

great deal about German culture, people, and improved his soccer

skills. With his hard work and diligence, he may become a well-known

soccer player in the future, seen on TV.

Nathan Bomberg

"Spanish has Always

Been my First Language"

Emily Rom interviewed Alejandra N. about how

language helps her stay connected to family members


Eighteen-year-old Alejandra was born and raised in the United States,

but English is not her first language. Her family is from Mexico and they

immigrated to America.

Alejandra lives with her parents and two siblings. In an anecdote about

her mother’s migration story, Andrea shared that her older sister was

born in Mexico, but her mother had to leave her with her grandmother

when she moved to America at age twenty-three, seeking better

opportunities. In the US, she met Alejandra’s father, who is also from

Mexico, at a dance. Soon after, she found a job at a post office, while

her partner worked as a carpet installer. After the couple had saved up

enough money, they were able to bring Alejandra’s sister to the US.

Now, her aunts and uncles also live in America.

Alejandra was born in America, but keeps close ties to Mexico. Although

she learned English at a very young age, she said, “Spanish has always

been my first language and English my second.” In school, she had the

opportunity to take her elementary classes in both languages.

Today, her family is still faced with issues as they pursue the American

Dream. There is the constant fear of getting deported by the US

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also called ICE. ICE tries to

prevent cross-border crimes and illegal immigration to the United

States. Alejandra shared that former president Donald Trump made

many racist remarks about Mexican people and even made plans to

build a wall at the American-Mexican border. “The policies and

comments made by people in power are something to be afraid of,” she


The constant fear is not the only issue Alejandra talked about. She also

stated that if her parents were to leave the U.S., they would not be

allowed to come back. Once she turns 21 years old, she can help her

parents obtain passports so they can travel abroad. Alejandra said:

“They have been wanting to go to Mexico for a while and it’s always sad,

because I’m the one able to go, but they can’t go.” Alejandra has visited

Mexico twice. Once was for her birthday, but she had to travel alone

due to the issues with the passport. “I wish they could go with me.

Spending my birthday in Mexico without them was sad,” Alejandra said.

Even though Alejandra did not experience immigration herself, her

parents told her that it is very risky and difficult. She shared a piece of

advice for people migrating to the US: “Just try to stay safe.” Immigrants

are often tricked and can get into dangerous situations.

Ever since America was discovered, people have immigrated there to

start a new life. Even today, Alejandra knows a lot of people whose

families have generations of immigrants. In her high school were mostly

Hispanic and Asian students and she explained that they would often

celebrate their cultures within school events, for example by making

offerings to relatives who had already passed away on November 2nd,

the Day of the Dead.

Still, living in the US makes it hard for Alejandra to advance her Spanish

skills, but she says: “I’m thankful to have a family that speaks Spanish, so

I will never forget it.”

Emily Rom

A Star Shining in the


Celine Hill wrote about Iruni Weddikara's immigration

story, highlighting the resilience of people who seek a

better life.

A light shining in a dark place – being guided to a place far away. The

light lost its sparkle for a while after arriving. But it did not take long to

regain its strength to shine brighter than ever before. This seems to be

the story of Iruni Weddikara Aracchige, who left Sri Lanka to start a new

life in Germany.

Mrs. Weddikara immigrated to Germany seventeen years ago with her

parents and her little brother. After finishing elementary school in Sri

Lanka, she started high school after immigrating, and it was not an easy

time for her. Mrs. Weddikara had to deal with racist jokes and even one

attack. She recalls the other students making racially insensitive

comments, such as: “Look at her! Her house must have been burning!”

or “Do not eat my dog!” Despite these challenges, Mrs. Weddikara

managed to persevere with the support of her friends and classmates

showing interest in her traditions and culture.

After finishing high school, Mrs. Weddikara wanted to become a doctor,

but she soon realized that an apprenticeship would suit her better.

Shortly after graduation, she met her now-husband and father of her

two children. Looking back, Mrs. Weddikara said she is glad to have had

the opportunity to choose her own path, something that may not have

been possible in Sri Lanka. She values the independence and freedom

of choice that Germany offers. However, Mrs. Weddikara is grateful for

much more than that. The healthcare system, financial support, stable

government, and equal and supportive infrastructure—for example, the

clean streets, public transport, and 5G network—are some of the

benefits she has experienced in Germany.

Mrs. Weddikara says that in contrast, “in Sri Lanka corruption is like the

air surrounding us — it is all around politics.” She believes that the

government is controlled by money and the will to gain power.

Additionally, she noted that social policies concentrate on the cities,

leaving behind people who live in rural areas. These conditions make it

difficult for ordinary people to thrive. Especially now that she is

pregnant with her second child, Mrs. Weddikara feels calm and

confident about raising her baby in Germany.

Still, there are some things that she misses about living in Sri Lanka.

“Being close to your family, or being neighbors, has more importance in

our culture than what I have experienced here,” she mentioned. Mrs.

Weddikara also finds Germans to be more private, making it difficult to

establish close relationships. Moreover, she finds the immigration

process and conditions for immigration to be too bureaucratic,

particularly because of all the necessary paperwork and the time it

takes for the process to be finished. In her opinion, this can make it

challenging for immigrants to settle in Germany.

When asked about whether she would immigrate again, Mrs. Weddikara

stated that looking back, she would do it all over again — not only

because of the experiences she has had and the life she has built now,

but mostly for the sake of her children. She wants them to have the

safety, opportunities, and freedom that she has experienced in

Germany, and she hopes they will shine even brighter than she has.

Celine Hill

I Came, I Saw, I Lived!

Vincent Schubert shed light on inter-E.U. immigration

in his interview with Martin, who moved to central


Martin, born in Slovakia, immigrated to Germany in 2011. Listening to his

words you realize that this person working at the professorship for

computer science in architecture at the Bauhaus-University in Weimar

has a calm character but seems to be very intelligent. The man wearing

big glasses has a young and friendly face. Is he happy to live in

Weimar? “Yes,” he says.

The pathway for his immigration to Germany was smoothed by his EUcitizenship.

In Slovakia he studied architecture, but after his final exams

he only found work as a programmer. “However, I thought that it’s kind

of a pity to study architecture for six years and then do something

completely different right afterwards,” Martin said. So, he started to look

for different opportunities somewhere else.

Being a student included in the Erasmus-program, Martin passed one

semester at the Bauhaus-University in Weimar. Since he already knew

there were some good opportunities, he asked Mr. Schneider, who

works at the professorship for computer science in architecture, if there

was work in this department. When Martin got the job, he traveled to

Germany by train. “Everything was super easy,” he said.

One of the main issues was the language. Although Martin had already

learned German at school, he needed a few months to get used to the

speed and common language phrases. Fortunately, many people at

university spoke English. At first, Martin did not know where to stay, so

he rented an apartment. “But then I was very fortunate and bumped

into someone who asked me to rent a free room in a shared flat,” he

said. In this way he got to know new people. “It was a very lucky

decision!” Martin believes, because then he got the opportunity to

make new social contacts.

Although the German bureaucracy did not cause any problems eleven

years ago, “right now everything takes an extremely long time," Martin

said. “I still have this feeling that nothing is working like it should.” Two

and a half years ago Martin applied for German citizenship, but he is still

waiting for it. Despite not causing any problems, as Martin comes from

an EU-state, if he had it, “it would feel like you are more part of the

country you live in,” Martin believes.

If you leave your homeland, you also must leave your family and your

circle of friends. Martin has a girlfriend who stayed in Slovakia at first.

During the first years. Martin visited his girlfriend every two or three

months and despite the big distance the relationship survived. Now

they live together in Weimar. Martin visits his family still living in Slovakia

just twice a year, but his relationship with them is still good.

Martin is happy to live in Weimar. “I really cannot imagine what I would

do back home," he said. He knows some people who had more

problems getting along in Germany, as some of his colleagues feel kind

of isolated in their new life. But Martin believes he knows the reason:

“Usually people who have wasted this opportunity to live with other

people, feel lonely, because then it’s pretty hard to find friends and to

start relationships.” For him the sharing of a flat with other people was

very important: “Everything was so much easier,” Martin concluded.

Vincent Schubert

The Light is Different,


Hannah Schlegel interviewed Edgar Schlegel about his

experience moving from western to eastern Germany.

This text is about a life — part of a life. This profile is about a boy — a

boy who grew up. His name is Edgar Schlegel. This profile is about his

life story and his migration from West Germany to East Germany.

“The light was different, brighter,” he remembered, absorbed in his

thoughts as we sat together. Then he began to report. Edgar was born

in West Germany on July 15th, 1965 in a small village called Bretach

with a population of 1,500 people — so everyone knew each other. The

village was located in a valley near a small river and was surrounded by

fields, meadows with fruit trees, and a forest. Edgar recalls: “I lived in the

middle of the village, and it often smelled like fresh hay because there

were a lot of barns nearby.” When he thinks about his childhood, he

remembers that he went out with friends every day. “We met with about

thirty other children and played on the street, in the fields, and in the

forest. We played soccer, rode our bikes, went sledding, and played

hide and seek,” he said. Twenty years later, he now resides in

Mühlhausen, which used to be part of East Germany.

Edgar studied psychology in Heidelberg from 1992 to 1998. He met his

wife, Annett Schlegel, in 1999. He said: “At first it was very difficult here

in Mühlhausen. I worked in psychiatry. Almost all my colleagues came

from Göttingen.” When asked about what was different from West

Germany, he said he was immediately recognized in Mühlhausen

because in West Germany he had a different way of speaking German.

However, he soon adjusted to the new environment and now he likes

the way of living and speaking in Mühlhausen, as well as the

multicultural society.

When asked whether coming to Mühlhausen was the right decision,

Edgar answered: “I have a circle of friends, I know a lot of people. I have

my own medical practice. I’m politically interested and I’m in the district

assembly. I made music with a friend and we perform onstage. I’ve got

two wonderful children and a beautiful wife. I’m very happy about that.”

While he is happy with the decisions he has made, there are some

things he sometimes misses about his old life. The nature that

surrounded him in Bretach and the fact that he could open the door

and walk just three steps into the green are some of the things that he

longs for. He added: “I wouldn’t move into a city again.”

When asked about migration, Edgar believes that it is necessary: “On

the one hand, it is an act of humanity, and on the other hand, it is

important because of worker resources,” he said. He acknowledged

that Thuringia loses 12,000 residents every year because of the aging

population and the low birth rate. When asked if he thinks our society is

tolerant enough to accept this development, he answered: “No society

is tolerant enough for migrants. People are always afraid of things they

don’t know, like a foreign language, a different appearance, or clothing.

Any loss of control for us is terrifying.” He believes that society is

becoming less reserved about this topic, but the fact that people are

still afraid shows how long things like this last.

When asked if he would like to move back to Bretach, Edgar answered:

“Not at the moment, all my friends moved away and I don’t know

anyone. I would not rule it out. But right now, I’m here.”

Hannah Schlegel

About DAIS

The Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut Sachsen is a nonprofit, nonpartisan

institution dedicated to fostering liberal democratic societies through

transatlantic dialogue on culture, history, the economy, and politics. We

are the first and only such institution in Central Germany. We believe the

lived experiences of people in the region matter for the transatlantic


Founded in 2020, DAIS carries out its mission through programs

facilitating cultural and political education, innovation, and talent

development for educators, students, journalists, researchers, civic and

religious leaders, and policymakers in Saxony, Central Germany, and


Together with American and European universities, schools, businesses,

and think tanks, we explore global-regional perspectives to promote an

open and inclusive exchange of ideas.

Get in touch!

DAI Sachsen

Markt 9

04109 Leipzig




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