A conversation on the different & the new
What encouraged you to take this brave step: to come to a completely foreign country at such a young age?
After I graduated from high school, I decided that I want to see new things, to meet foreign cultures and different mentalities. Germany was – for reasons I can’t explain logically – my dream since I was a child. I had no personal bonds to this country. And I am really happy that I could make this dream come true.
Do you remember the day you arrived here, in Baden-Württemberg? Do you remember the feelings you had at your arrival and what your first impression of the country was?
Like it was yesterday… I first came to Stuttgart with my father. I was very excited but at the same time a little scared and anxious. It was a really big step I was taking. We landed in a country where we didn’t know anyone – we didn’t even speak the language.
How did your family and friends react to your decision to leave for Germany? How do they treat you today?
At first, everyone was skeptical. I had always been a person who likes to face challenges and tackle them. But something so big like deciding to leave my home and go try my luck at a completely foreign country, well, it hadn’t happened before. So, obviously, everyone was a little hesitant and questioned if I was certain about my decision. But, as time went by, my parents and my friends came to understand that this decision was the best for me – especially my parents.
“Germany offers you a lot of possibilities and chances. But you have to work hard”
You have been living in Germany for four years now. You began your studies and started working part-time. How do you like Germany? Has your impression about this country changed in comparison to the impression you had the first period of acclimation here?
My views about this country remain the same. Germany offers you a lot of possibilities and chances. But you have to work hard. Germany is a very well organised country in every sector – among those sectors is also the education sector. I personally believe that the educational system here teaches the citizens the discipline they are applying later in their everyday life. I want to become a teacher for elementary school someday and I started my studies in Karlsruhe two years ago. During the first phase of my studies, all students had to absolve an internship in a school. There, I could see myself that the children are taught to be responsible and independent at a very young age. I believe this is very important for their further development and their ability to function in society.
Why did you choose Baden-Württemberg?
This is a question I cannot really answer, even not to myself. Baden-Württemberg is a developed Federal State with a strong economy and many opportunities. I also assumed that the Southwest of most countries is more welcoming considering the climate and it shows a greater hospitality and even familiarity to people coming from even further South like me from Greece. So, I came to the Southwest of Germany because this region was more attractive to me.
What does the term integration mean to you, Katerina?
First of all, it is important for the newcomer to a foreign country to understand the local culture and the laws this country is applying. This is very important, so one can join the society. That doesn’t mean, of course, that you forget your own culture, but that you accept and respect something new and you adapt to the new situation you live in.
What is also very important is to learn the language of this country. The language is important not only for the everyday dialogue with the locals but also for the comprehensive understanding of all I mentioned above. In my opinion, you need willpower, hard work and, above all, you have to love the different and the new in order to be able to integrate yourself in a new country, a new society, a new life.
“it is important for the newcomer to understand the local culture”
What was the greatest challenge you have faced so far?
There were quite a lot of challenges and I am certain there are almost as many as the past ones to come in the future. Life is full of challenges. The greatest challenge for me was maybe to learn German in such a short period of time like I did. I came to Germany with very little knowledge of the language. Of course, when I arrived here I was well-organised. Almost immediately after my arrival and settling down, I contacted the Goethe-Institut here in Stuttgart. There I have been visiting my courses very diligently while working simultaneously as a promoter to earn my income. I managed to reach the level B2 within a time frame of 6 months. After this achievement, I was finally able to apply for university.
In general, I can say that I am very thankful for the support I am receiving – from my parents down in Levadia, and other people I met. But let’s keep in mind that, due to its organisation, Germany offers its citizens as well as the newcomers the information and the help they need to get along in this country.
Where would you like to be in three to five years from now?
Here, continuing the hard work on implementing my goals and following my dreams.
Have you thought about going back to Greece at some time in the future?
I haven’t asked myself this question yet. It is certain that Greece is an integral part of me. I was born and raised there, I went to school and graduated high school there, my parents and my friends are living in Greece. Still, I will try to put my career and my personal happiness to the foreground. And both are related to my residence in Germany.
As I mentioned further above, I started my studies of pedagogy two years ago in Karlsruhe and I still have a few semesters to go. What comes afterwards, I cannot say yet. But I will work hard to stay here in Baden-Württemberg, for even longer than the five years I have already spent here.
The interview with Katerina can be found in full length in our magazine. “New in BW” will be out on the market on April 22nd.