Lots of errands + my first week!
Monthly bus ticket= bought!
Visa= got it!
German phone= set up!
As my vacation started to end, I had to start thinking about reality again and planning for my four-month stay. So when I started to tackle everything, I quickly realized just how different and confusing these things were in comparison to doing them back in America. It took me and one of my German friends two and a half hours and three phone calls one day to figure out what bus ticket I need and how to purchase it, I had to find a “picture-taking” place, as well as somewhere where I could print my visa application and I had to figure out how to set up my phone after my SIM card never came in the mail. Everything got done in the end but I couldn’t help but think how annoying all of these little things were for someone who A. chose to be here, B. can speak German and C. has lots of German friends who can and are willing to help me versus an asylum seeker or immigrant who might not fall under any of this criteria. These were just a few of the many things I learned this week that asylum seekers, specifically, struggle with within the first several months after they arrive in Germany.
Each day of my first week was drastically different from the one before it but I quickly learned that there are lots of things that need to get done, never-ending obstacles and not as many workers as there need to be, but things still get done. This week I spent two days at one of the five refugee shelters that are here in Duesseldorf. This particular shelter was said to be the “best” one in the city because attached to the building is an Aldi, it is not in a residential area (so much fewer complaints are made from outside of the shelter) and they have lots of services and activities available to the residents within the same building. Some of the things I’ve done this week were reading and asking a lot about the asylum process in Germany, sitting in on individual consultations, assisting with data entry, attending the weekly team-meeting (consisting of my supervisor who leads the Integration and Migration department at the German Red Cross-Duesseldorf and workers at the shelters for asylum seekers) and learning more about what services and partnerships the German Red Cross-Duesseldorf has.
Although my German is not fantastic, everyone has been very welcoming, patient with and helpful to me, and for that I am beyond grateful! But even with my broken German, I’ve already been able to talk to some of the staff about the frustrations that they and this population faces. I came into this knowing that there would be challenges but learning that, like Social Work in America, there are many overarching rules and regulations that need to be considered when providing services to asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants. One of the newest (and perhaps most frustrating) rules that have been put into place in Germany is that whichever city an individual/family enters into Germany as an asylum seeker, they have to stay in that same city for at least three years. This is even the case when jobs and apartments cannot be obtained or when they have family members in other cities within Germany. Through the employees’ and clients’ frustration however, there is still an attitude of patience and positivity and I really admire everyone for that. There is still so much to learn, so I am really looking forward to what’s next. I am just hoping, however, that I won’t feel too overwhelmed within the next coming weeks!
Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions about the shelter I visited, the consultations, what services the GRC provides or anything else you can think of and I will try my best to answer them or find the answers!