First, it’s important to understand the rules and traditions of the country.
Volunteers play a major role here. For example, at JRS Berlin, we have a language café where we play games, cook together, and have lots of discussions. All of this improves language skills and helps paint a picture of life in Germany. Refugees and immigrants come to the language café full of questions about what life, laws, and traditions are in this country, and they try to find answers there.
This is why volunteers are a bridge to this new world. They show what it’s like in Germany, and having this social support network increases people’s likelihood of integrating into their new culture.
In early 2016, I started to visit different social projects, including various language cafés. They really helped me become part of German society. I could practice the language there, and I made new German friends. We went to different events together, like concerts, city festivals, and even protests. Of course, we also often talked about religion, politics, and daily life in Germany. It wasn’t just about learning new vocabulary, but also getting a grip on what being a German citizen is like.
Second, it’s important to have positive social interactions. Education, willpower, and motivation are the three key aspects here.
Education is important so the newcomer can plan for their future, and it answers questions such as: what about the education I received in my home country and my strengths can I share in this new place, and what do I need in order to do so? A good plan for the future isn’t enough with the will to implement it.
Willpower is the core of the integration process. Without making an effort, we all stay in our own circles, and integrating will be difficult.
Motivation keeps the gears of future plans turning long-term. Willpower is very important to start with, but it doesn’t guarantee that we’ll keep moving forward. This is where motivation comes in. Motivation is a crucial basis for sustainability and determination to reach the planned goal. My own motivation was seriously tested when my educational credentials weren’t recognised, at first.
At JRS, I started the “JRS Helps” project as a volunteer. The feeling of contributing and bringing happiness to other people has strengthened my resolve!
All in all, I’d say integration isn’t just an individual challenge, but also a wider social challenge that I like to contribute towards.