Von Uganda nach Flensburg

Ein persönlicher Erlebnisbericht einer ugandischen Studentin

The Start
For some people starting a new life in a foreign place is an exciting venture yet for others fear of the unknown, anxiety, uncertainty that awaits result in mixed feelings. I think I lie in the latter group.  When I set off on this journey to pursue this degree, I was leaving the relatively familiar life in my country to venture in to the unknown here in Germany.
The Arrival
Travelling to Flensburg based on information received from Kathrina and SESAM management was an experience that required a positive attitude and trust that I would be met at the agreed locations or else all the confidence tucked up in the sober look would crumble and I would be overcome by fear. Once I was  in Hamburg, it was challenge to try to remember all the German language I had learnt in 3weeks so I could communicate and reach Flensburg safely. I remember how the word `entschuldigen` felt too long and I wasn’t sure that my pronunciation was correct. I needed this word to get help and directions. My limited or non-existing knowledge of German forced me to try to make myself understood in English, using sign language,  especially when trying to communicate with the bus driver from Hamburg to Neumünster. When I think of the whole experience now, I can only imagine the stress I must have put him through uuuuhmmm.
Anyway, I was in Flensburg on time, 3rd of January to be specific and was the first student in my lot to arrive. So I am at the Bahnhof, it’s a little dark outside a few people are seated while others quickly dash out getting taxis and off they went. No sign of someone to meet me and I start to panic, at the back of my mind am thinking Miria…….. relax it’s not a prank. After every passing minute, the sober attitude I had built through the journey was beginning to wane off. I stood, phased around and sat on the benches about 4 times before I decided that standing was a better option, no one around would see the fear in me.  
Well, after a few more minutes Kathrina arrives, booming with a smile as if she had met me before. She apologies for being a little late, before I could relax my forces we were moving out of the relatively warm Bahnhof to the outside. Huh, the combination of the winter cold hitting my face and my anxiety  must have prevented me from smiling at all, an impression which shocked Kathrina as I later learnt. She was used to relatively cheerful Africans, I was an exception…………., serious looking appearance which according to many, depicts me as scary and a no nonsense person… please may I point out that’s not true. Anyway Kathrina was the first recipient of that here in Deutschland.
We drive through Flensburg to the place I was to live with a flatmate who arrived a few days later. As I try to appreciate my surroundings, Kathrina tries to chat me up and my response  was a node or grunt a combination which is not so good for a first meeting. A good rest in a calm surrounding eventually saved my reputation, I actually turned out to be quite cheerful the following days.                                           

My classmates
Well it wasn’t long before all my classmates arrived, meeting them was another interesting experience since they each represented different cultures. My class as we later tagged it is a “sustainable” mix.  As we grew to know each other, it downed on us that we needed each other and would spend quite an amount of time together. I always say we are a class of actors and actresses because after a few weeks, walls were torn down and each of us became relaxed free and had a lot of fun. Always planning some mischief here and there and teasing each other, making short movies and dance videos and at times having really beefed-up arguments, some of which I believe may have given our lecturers something to laugh, discuss and smile about. As we build the global village, I can boldly say I now have 14 other network connections to different parts of the world through these unique and informed colleagues ………………

Mentor family
By the second week of my stay in Germany, Kathrina had informed us about the mentor family programme and asked if we were interested: Agreeing to this, at the back of my mind I knew it would take some time to set up a family for me and by that time I would be ready or rather prepared to meet them. Little did I know that I would be the first to get introduced to my mentor family. Panicking and anxious of what was expected of me as I met them, I unknowingly reclined, building my walls of reservation. This meant I only answered questions when Marion, my mentor Mum asked and quickly disappeared into the crowd since our first meeting was at Phänomenta. Karsten my mentor Dad came later and I was introduced to him. Our journey of learning from each other began, of course the first month was calm, I was still reserved and I think they kept imagining of how to reach out to me.Then came Easter and the whole celebration attached to it was really fun. I clearly remember having very interesting discussions with Karsten, Marion and other members of their family ranging from religion, politics, social life, corruption. It was quite eye opening.
Through the months we got to spend a lot of time together doing a lot of things ranging from museum visits, parties, site seeing, study excursion, choir practice the list is long. To cut a long story short I have learnt to be open minded, a little relaxed, abit more patient, more time conscious, a little bit more direct a character which wasn’t part of me before. The bond created between my mentor family and me will surely last. For they are not just a mentor family but friends whom I can relate to in different ways. I can boldly say both parties have learnt a lot from each other and the time spent together is memorable and priceless. I am also certain that most of the SESAM students who have had mentor families have something to tell about them. Most of the mentor families I have interacted with have offered guidance, help and their time to the students, acts which I consider selfless since all require spending of time together.
As I conclude this piece, I still have a lot to write and say about the mentor programme but as my professor always joked “it is hard to get a Ugandan to conclude or keep quite once they have started talking” so I choose to make him swallow his words by ending this piece.
Lastly, however, heheheheh (I know when he reads this he will laugh!!!!!) I would like to thank all the mentor families for spending time with us and being interested in learning from us. It takes a humble and open minded person to do that.
To SESAM students, being part of you makes me proud because you are all unique and you make SESAM “a hot cake” among other programmes. Thank you for all the variety of experience, culture and passion you bring from your countries.
To the SESAM management and lecturers who guide us and support the mentor family programme, thank you!!
To the person who is at times forgotten, KATHRINA SCHIPPER, thank you for all you have done so far through the mentor family programme and for other guidance, support and friendship you offer us.
As my friend from Namibia would say.
Till next issue, assuming there is continuity,
Auf Wiedertschüss