Tag Archives: Germany

Border controls – a love/hate relationship

Border controls – we all know them. We all hate them when we get stuck in depressingly long traffic jams near the Germany’s southern border with Austria on our way back from Italy, Croatia, etc. When you finally reach the point where the police officer comes up to you and wants to see your passport all your patience is gone, and you just want to get home. One might wonder what good these border controls are. One might argue that they shouldn’t be taking place because Austria is in the EU as well and furthermore is a part of the Schengen treaty, which was brought into life nearly solely for the purpose of eliminating borders. Now, there was a time not long ago where there indeed weren’t any controls among Germany’s borders, but we all know what changed this. The massive waves of refugees pouring into the country. The government decided to have the federal police controlling the most frequently used routes of illegal immigration by human traffickers.

Illegal immigration is not the only crime these border patrol units are trying to prevent. We all heard about the Mafia. What does the Mafia do? They kill, blackmail and trade with drugs. While the border patrols can’t really do much about the killing and blackmailing, they sure can do something about the drug-trade. A friend of mine which I’ll refer to as Tim works for the border patrol as an undercover investigator. Undercover meaning that he doesn’t wear a uniform and drives around in a normal car not that he went undercover to become the best friend of some drug kingpin and then snitch on him. Tim told me several stories about several cases concerning his and his colleagues’ work with drugs at the German-Austria border. The most spectacular being the one where they found multiple kilos of cocaine welded into a car. The total value was estimated to 500.000€. And this is not even the most amazing thing about this case: The mule was known to the German authorities and they even knew that he had planned a trip from Germany down south, with drugs on board. He started this roadtrip of his in Nordhrein-Westfalen carried on through Baden-Württemberg until he was finally stopped by a border patrol unit. Unknown to the vast majority is the fact that border patrol control traffic entering but also leaving the country in order to make sure no convicted criminals leave the country.

That is just one of many many cases in which the border controls executed by the police resulted in success and helped to make this country safer. Where there are expensive drugs like cocaine, violence isn’t far away. And violence leads to pain, pain that often innocent bystanders of drug wars have to endure. So next time when the police officer at a border control comes up to your car and asks you for your passport and what you have in the back think about all the good things that come out of border controls and think twice if your sacrifice of time really is that bad.

author: Sean Langer

Social counseling

Sozialreferat_BildWhen I started to study, I didn’t realize how many different ways of volunteering there are. Since I had to give up my voluntary work in my hometown, I wanted to get involved again. A friend took me to the Sozialreferat at the University of Augsburg. From the beginning, I was enthusiastic about their ideas and I’m convinced that if they’re implemented, they’ll benefit students a lot. But see for yourself…

Timetabling
Timetabling is not an easy task, especially when you’re starting off. Often the lectures clash with each other or you have a job. Module handbooks, professors and even fellow students from higher semesters sometimes don´t make matters better either. Through our schedule support we – the Sozialreferat – want to give you advice and help you with various issues throughout the semester(s).

The Monday meeting (an informal  chat)
We offer an opportunity for an informal chat every Monday. We talk about all kinds of things (concerns, etc.) regarding university and personal things. Sometimes we just act as a sounding board so students get new ideas for their studies and replenish energy reserves. Sometimes you only need a sympathetic ear or an objective opinion to cope.

Seminars

Bafög-Seminar
In this seminar, students find out about the various ways of funding their studies. There are some sources which aren’t widely known about, such as study loans, scholarships or housing allowances. We also discuss how and where to apply for these “cash injections” and who is entitled to do so.

Future projects

Sozialreferat_2Social Foundation
Up to now, students here who are experiencing an emergency haven’t been able to apply for short-term loans. In certain situations, the Sozialreferat wants to make this possible. So we’re trying to convince the responsible ministry.

Psycho-social counseling
In this consultation, we hope to be supported by the Chair of Educational Sciences: in the “Counseling for schools” training course, students have to complete a one-week internship at a counseling center. We’d like to offer this internship on our premises.

Guidelines
With regard to the increasingly heterogeneous student body, a manual with the most important contact information, as well as tips for your studies is being planned. The purpose of this manual is to create a flexible problem-solving resource for students and to complement the work of current and future counselors and employees.

The first semester can be confusing and nerve racking in every way. Receiving timetable aid, for instance, is very important in order to plan your studies efficiently and is one of many factors that will make things less stressful. I still remember exactly how confused and overwhelmed I was in the first semester when I had to create my own schedule which was in the end not very effective. I wish someone more experienced had helped me at that time.

Now being part of the team I hope that we can achieve a lot and that students will benefit from our help. We’re there for you for all concerns and problems that occur during your daily student life. We offer you a wide range of services such as consultations, seminars or lectures.

 If you’d like to support us, please contact us and become part of our great team!

Author & Pictures: Carolin Steinke

Embracing Unity (and Justice and Freedom)

Defining unity has become hard in a world that seems to be falling apart. Catalans have tried to vote in an independence referendum merely days after the Kurds, Québec’s autonomy is back on the table and Brexit is causing uproar, not only in the EU, but even more in the UK itself. And what if the Scots decide they’ve had it and become independent after all?

Unity out of divisionFahne_Riss

Germans, of all people, know about the inconveniences, and even dangers, of separation and partition. A mere one thousand five hundred years of regional reclusiveness were followed by only about seventy years of unity (and two World Wars) before the country was broken apart again. Of course, there’s a difference between forced partition and chosen self-government. But historically speaking, abandoning all the advantages of a unified state because of ethnic pride and regional patriotism has rarely stood the test of time.

When, in 1841, von Fallersleben wrote the text to the German national anthem, he addressed unity alongside justice and freedom in a democratic state. Now, however, elections as the very basis of democracy have come to show the fault lines that still exist throughout Germany. In the recent parliamentary election, thirteen percent voted for a party whose program exploits this lack of unity – a division based on current political matters both in Germany and the EU. The foundation of democracy is in imminent danger. As with the British people, it is our freedom that allows us to question the point of our unity.

Peace out of unity

In these disturbing times, it’s vital that Germans celebrate and embrace their unity, particularly on our twenty-seventh Tag der deutschen Einheit. This unity lies in diversity within the framework of a unified Europe, our key guarantee for peace, which in turn secures our territorial integrity. Germany, of course, was divided by brute force, which is a whole different story than Brexit or the movement for Catalonian independence. Unity just for the sake of it only leads to stagnation, if not regress.

Still, those who long for independence should challenge their motives. There are three questions to be answered: first of all, how bad is my current situation? Maybe, I’m just suffering from First World Problems. Second, is partition the solution to my problems? Or will they just continue on a regional level? And, finally, will I gain more than I lose? Sometimes, winning independence from a greater power threatens unity within.

Text: Angie Czygann & Niklas Schmidt
Picture: Angie Czygann

Mieux vaut vivre.

Samedi, 10-06-2017

Il est samedi, le 06 juin, 2h de l’après-midi dans un foyer pour demandeurs d’asile.

On se trouve dans une petite chambre équipée de deux lits, avec une seule fenêtre et une grande armoire en acier. Sur les murs, il y a des photos de famille et un calendrier de Ramadan.

Mon interlocuteur s’appelle Moussa, 30 ans, sénégalais et sans statut officiel en Allemagne.

«L’asile ne s’obtient pas facilement.»

eMAG: Est-ce que vous pourriez nous dire d’où vous venez?

Moussa: Bon, je m’appelle Moussa et je suis sénégalais, de Dakar, notre capitale. Je suis ici en Allemagne depuis un an et quelques mois.

eMAG: C’est longtemps, surtout si l’on n’a pas eu de chance, en ce qui concerne son statut. Avez-vous eu des problèmes d’obtenir l’asile?

Moussa: Oui, naturellement, j’ai eu des petits problèmes avec mon statut. L’asile ne s’obtient pas facilement. Surtout nous, les Africains, on a des difficultés actuellement. Un problème de statut se pose, mais quand-même, ça ne nous empêche pas de vivre.

«Les gens pensent que l’Afrique, c’est un pays.»

eMAG: Vous parlez de «nous». Avez-vous rencontrés beaucoup de compatriotes ici?

Moussa: Oui, j’ai connu pas mal d’Africains, de façon générale. Des Nigérians, des Maliens, des Sénégalais, des Gambiens. Ce sont les nationalités que j’ai rencontré ici.

eMAG: Ce sont beaucoup de nationalités et surtout beaucoup de personnes qui vivent ensemble dans un endroit très étroit. Est-ce que cela ne cause pas des problèmes? Ou est-ce qu’on trouve facilement des amis?

Moussa: Bon, des fois cela cause des problèmes d’incompréhension, de culture différente. Ici, beaucoup de gens pensent que l’Afrique, c’est un pays, alors que c’est un continent avec 54 pays très différents. La plupart du temps, on arrive quand-même à se comprendre, aussi parce qu’on est obligé de vivre ensemble, donc mieux vaut vivre.

Les amis, en général, se trouvent facilement, surtout quand vous êtes du même pays, car cela vous rend automatiquement des frères. Mais c’est aussi facile d’en avoir avec ceux qui habitent dans les autres pays africains, il y a de la sympathie car vous partagez une origine commune et vous êtes ici pour le même bût, pour la même raison, pour les mêmes causes. Il y a un sentiment de solidarité.

«Une très petite partie des Allemands sont des racistes.»

eMAG: Les allemands, est-ce que vous vous comprenez bien avec eux ou est-ce qu’il y a eu des problèmes de racisme?

Moussa: Non, je suis là depuis un an, mais je n’ai jamais eu des problèmes de racisme. Sauf un jour on est allé à un jeu de foot et ce que l’arbitre avait fait là, c’était carrément du racisme. Ça a même choqué les allemands qui étaient là-bas, je dirais donc que même s’il y a du racisme ici, ce n’est pas tout le monde qui l’est! En fait il n’y en a qu’une très petite partie qui est raciste, mais personellement, je ne l’ai pas encore rencontré. Espérons que cela ne change pas, Inch’Allah.

eMAG: Est-ce que vous pourriez encore nous donner quelques details sur votre vie quotidienne au Sénégal, votre famille, votre métier, la situation linguistique?

Moussa: Bon, au Sénégal, il y a une vingtaine de langues ou plus, mais la langue la plus parlée, c’est le Wolof, c’est ce qu’on pourrait appeler ma langue maternelle.. La majeure partie des sénégalais ne sont pas des Wolof dans le sens éthnique mais parlent quand-même le Wolof, parce que c’est notre langue nationale.

Pour le boulot, je suis un mécanicien et, c’est ainsi que je suis parvenu à gagner ma vie au Sénégal.

«Ce n’était pas ‘l’appel’ de Merkel.»

eMAG: Quand vous êtes arrivés en Allemagne, cela vous a pris beaucoup de temps? Quels ont été vos expériences?

Moussa: Bon, cela ne m’a pas pris beaucoup de temps, je suis passé par un autre pays européen et, après quelque temps là-bas, j’ai décidé de venir en Allemagne, pour déposer ma demande d’asile ici.. Ça ne m’a pas pris beaucoup de temps: j’ai pris l’avion.

eMAG: Beaucoup d’Allemands pensent que la politique de la «porte ouverte» de notre chancelière a été une des raisons pour lesquels nous sommes un des pays de destination privilégiée des réfugiés. Est-ce que vous aviez des amis qui vous ont «conseillé» de venir en Allemagne, est-ce que c’était peut-être pour des raisons économiques?

Moussa: Non, ce n’était ni l’appel de Merkel ni des raisons économiques. En fait, j’ai choisi un pays où je ne connaissais pas de Sénégalais, pas d’africains. Il y en a des milliers en Italie, en France, partout en Europe. J’ai voulu venir en Allemagne pour me cacher ici, pour sortir des radars. Je ne m’attendais pas à me trouver au milieu d’africains comme ça.

«Le portable, c’est comme l’eau qu’on boit.»

eMAG: On pourrait donc dire que vous avez fait de mauvaises connaissances et que vous avez décidé de leur échapper? Éviter leurs amis, leurs réseaux, leur mauvaise influence etc?

Moussa: Voilà. Je me suis réfugié pour ma propre sécurité, je ne suis pas un réfugié économique. Comme je l’ai déjà dit, j’avais un boulot au Sénégal.

eMAG: On a beaucoup parlé du rôle de l’ordiphone et des réseaux sociaux pour les réfugiés du 21ème siècle. Quels étaient vos expériences durant votre réfuge votre fuite et après?

Moussa: Bon, si je prends l’exemple de mon téléphone, cela me permet de rester en contact avec qui je veux. Avoir les nouvelles de ma famille, connecter ici et ailleurs. Au 21ème siècle, le portable est comme l’eau qu’on boit: on ne doit plus en manquer. C’est un outil de vie, tout le monde sait que le portable n’est plus un luxe. J’en ai besoin pour savoir où est-ce que je vais, ta famille pour savoir comment tu vas. Le portable, les réseaux sociaux, ils sont nécessaires pour rester en contact avec tout le monde, la famille, les amis, les gens qui se soucient de nous.

«La nostalgie est là, tout le temps.»

eMAG: Le sujet de notre prochaine édition papier sera le „throwback“, les souvenirs et la nostalgie. Sûrement, c’est un sentiment que vous connaissez?

Moussa: Bon, je pense, même sans devoir poser des questions, tout le monde sait que c’est difficile de vivre séparé de sa famille. Des fois, tu as vraiment envie d’aller à l’aéroport et de prendre le prochain avion. Parce que la famille représente infiniment plus que de vivre en Allemagne. Donc, la nostalgie est là, tout le temps. Mais, à long terme, tu t’y habitues, et ce qui nous aide, ce sont les réseaux sociaux comme WhatsApp. Il y a mille moyens de rester en contact avec sa famille, mais le téléphone ne peut pas remplacer le fait d’être côte à côte avec quelqu’un. On essaie de faire avec les moyens qu’on a, mais on est aussi des croyants, donc, on va tout simplement accepter notre destin et essayer de nous en sortir de la façon la plus digne possible.

eMAG: Parlons de la religion. Est-ce que vous avez l’impression de pouvoir l’exprimer et la vivre librement en Allemagne?

Moussa: Oui, je la vie librement ici, sans contraintes. Et vous savez, avoir une religion différente de la majorité ne t’empêche pas de t’intégrer. Avant tout, la foi, elle est en toi. Il n’y a pas besoin de faire de la publicité, c’est en toi, dans ton cœur, dans ton esprit. Je n’ai jamais eu des problèmes, quel que soit l’endroit où je suis, au contraire, il m’est arrivé que quelqu’un me voit prier, s’approche de moi parce qu’il voit: ça, c’est aussi c’est un musulman. Ici, je n’ai trouvé que du respect mutuel, de la tolérance.

«Mon aspiration, c’est d’être libre.»

eMAG: Dernière question: Quelle est votre perspective pour l’avenir?

Moussa: Bon, mon but, c’est de vivre en paix, de pouvoir gagner ma propre vie, là il n y a pas de différences entre un allemand et un réfugié. Un allemand, par contre, s’il veut travailler, il le fait, s’il veut voyager, il le fait. Ça, c’est mon aspiration, d’être libre, de faire ce que je veux, d’aller où je veux, tout en respectant la loi, bien sûr.

eMAG: Bonne chance. Merci pour l’interview.

Moussa: De rien.

(texte abrégé)

Interview conduit par Niklas Schmidt

Photos prises à Friedberg par Niklas Schmidt

Things that happen on the tram

Monday, 7.40 AM. Fog pours into the streets and the square starts to fill up as another workday has just begun. People are accumulating on the platform, ready to fight. Yes, fight. Some of them are quietly staring at their smartphones, but expectation is hanging in the air. Then there’s a light chime. With its awaited, growing rustle, the tram appears at the beginning of the platform. The heads turn and follow automatically that cable-driven truck, everybody hoping to be the lucky guy who finds themselves in front of the sliding door. The tram stops. Time stops. The doors open and the melee pushes inside, grumbling and trying to reach the most longed goal at that moment: a free seat. After less than a minute of catch-as-catch-can each passenger has found their place in this little ecosystem on rails.

Equilibrium principlestram2

More than any other ecosystem, the tram needs to maintain a certain equilibrium during its urban rollercoaster ride. The public transport in Augsburg (aka AVV Racing Team) provides a unique service of balance training, thanks to sudden accelerations and abrupt braking, no matter if you’re sitting or standing. Grasping on to any possible object in the tram is the basic rule of such peculiar environment; it could be a pole, a strap or…another passenger. The latest extreme example of savage desperation to find the right equilibrium was a short woman who leant against another one’s breasts during the whole ride to Kö. No, the two women didn’t even know each other.

Fighting without referee

As we’ve already seen, the tram is a very “physical” space. A place where all kinds of dangerous studs-up tackles and nudges will never be subject to a yellow or red card. But not only body parts are involved. The most life-threatening weapon in this case is the backpack. These self-propelled bags are kind of their own life form, with the owner apparently not knowing the real bulk of what they’re carrying. Thousands of victims suffer on a daily basis: innocent noses, shoulders and backs which can’t even seek justice as what happens on the tram, stays on the tram!

tram1Riding into freedom

In some ways this is the secret beauty of the tram: anyone is free to do what they want during the ride. You can listen to a wide variety of languages spoken by passengers, whether they are tourists or foreign inhabitants, or you can turn on you MP3-player and pretend to be in a music video. You can chat with interesting urban philosophers or chat on your smartphone, keeping an eye on your neighbor who is probably craning his neck to snoop your messages. You can look out of the window or steal a glance at other passengers… Oh no. That old man’s wearing tight shorts…Without underpants… I must get off. “Ding dong. Next stop: Cathedral”. Thank God!

Author & Pictures: Veronica Armellini

Time flies when you’re in the air

Shortly after my seventeenth birthday my father and I decided to approach one item on our bucket list we’d both wanted to tick off for a long time; learn how to fly. So we booked a paragliding course. The basic class we participated in, took about four days and aimed to teach every student to fly by themselves. The requirements were pretty simple: we should be able to run in a straight line and – of course – not be afraid of heights. And the equipment was provided by the flight school.

Learning to fly

Our course began with a bit of theory and school introductory course videos on the mechanics, equipment and paragliding techniques.  We learned how to understand local weather forecast accurately and how to decide when to fly and when to stay at home. For our first practical exercise, we moved to the training hills to practice inflating and controlling our wings on the ground, learning to take off, land, and steering skills. All these exercises were simple but also very exhausting, as they consisted of running, stopping and running again for nearly an hour.IMG-20161228-WA0000

On the third day, it was time for our first training flight. We launched from the side of a hill at a height of nearly 200 meters, we had to run downhill until the chute would open and lift us up in the air. In the meantime, the teacher gave us instructions from the ground through a walkie talkie. One of these training flights lasted around a minute and a half but it felt much shorter. Time just flies when you’re in the air!

In order to be prepared for the final flight on day four, we had to start at least 15 times from the practice launch site. What didn’t sound like too much of an effort at first definitely became the hardest challenge on the entire course, one reason being that the full equipment weighed around 15 kg and we had to carry it 200 meters uphill on a small path, which the instructor fondly called the “channel of sweat”.

Reward for the hard work

On the last day, we were ready for the first flight completely on our own. We started from the top of a 900-metre mountain. For a change, we didn’t have to carry our chutes to the top because there was a special lift installed. We flew for nearly ten minutes, enough time to relax and enjoy the beautiful landscapes from above. Everybody reached the landing zone safely and the course ended there and then.

Altogether it was a memorable weekend and if you haven’t put paragliding on your own bucket list yet, make sure to note it down immediately.

Author & Picture: Philipp Soballa

Are you a ‘Faschingsmuffel’?

fachingI always feel like a stranger in my hometown Füssen in the Allgäu. The reason for this is simple: Fasching, the traditional carnival in southern Germany. But thankfully, the Fasching euphoria in Füssen is rather moderate compared to the villages surrounding it, like Buching, Hopferau and so on, which you most certainly don’t know if you’re not from the area.

Reasons to dislike Fasching

But why is that? I simply don’t get it. Okay, some of the costumes at the parades are in fact quite funny but – in my opinion – the majority aren’t. Most of the costumes are even worse! Hordes of badly-dressed cowboys and Indians! For every creative costume produced after hours and hours of work, there are hundreds of boring Wild West reenactments. And then there’s the horrible music. Every year, the same tasteless Schlager playlists penetrate my ears and leave me speech- and breathless (“Atemlos”…)! But for most people at Fasching, it doesn’t matter, since the majority of people just need a reason to get drunk and – even fasching.worse – they can’t cope with being drunk and behave aggressively.

Any chance of escape?

You might be wondering if it’s possible to escape from this madness. Well, if you’re living in one of these previously-mentioned Fasching strongholds, there’s only one way to do so: build yourself a soundproof air-raid shelter. Sorry. If you’re lucky and you live a safe distance away from these danger areas, take advantage – stay away and let the others have their fun. Tastes differ and so do ideas about what a good party looks like.

By the way, in case you have to hand in a seminar paper or something similar by the end of February, see the positive side of it: in the library, you’re safe from drunkards in fancy dress and Helene Fischer.

Authors: Thomas Kienast, Sebastian Reimann
Pictures: Noemi Hehl