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Students Activities


Students Activities


"We need more security in Iraq!"
Interview and Photos by Robert Zapp, 2012

Ahmed Sabah Naser Al-Edresi belongs to the pilot group of students who came from Iraq to Dortmund to study spatial planning. He has just passed his German language exam and will now be able to begin his studies in the summer term. After one and a half year, it's time to ask what it's like for him to be in Germany and to study here at the TU Dortmund University and what is his opinion about the pliq programme.

Ahmed in front of his world map.

You will probably belong to the first generation of planners in Iraq. How does that feel for you?
As long as the situation in Iraq lasts like it is today with this lack of security and that chaos, the good people who want to develop something can't work. Nobody can really work within these circumstances. It's not easy for example to build a new bridge – and when it is built, a bombing takes place and the whole work is destroyed. We need more security and infrastructure in Iraq!

The goal fixed in the new pliq agreement is to establish spatial planning studies in Iraq in 2012. Do you think that this will be successful?
We really hope that it will be successful to establish spatial planning studies with the help of TU Dortmund University. I find it very important. We need to build up modern cities, modern streets and a good infrastructure. At the moment, you can see little lakes on the streets when it was raining a lot, because of all the holes. When you drive a new car there it will look like a 50-year-old car just after a month (laughing).

Are you satisfied with the pliq programme and with the assistance you get here?
I am really very glad that this programme exists and that we have the possibility to study here. We have the chance to learn for our future and for the future development of Iraq. Everything we get from the German side is a hundred percent wonderful, the assistance, the help, everything. Not only that they are helping us wherever they can, they are simply good people. I am happy to know them!

How do you like the TU Dortmund University and the city of Dortmund?
The university is really nice. It's a beautiful place with huge buildings and places – it's like a little town! And the H-Bahn is very funny to see at the beginning, when you haven't seen such a construction before. Dortmund… in my opinion, it's too quiet. There aren't so many people on the streets. Also, there aren't many tourists.

One and a half year ago, you came to Germany and you couldn't speak a word in German – today we can have our conversation in German. Honestly, how difficult was it to learn the language?
German is very difficult. I worked for hours and hours to learn it. Thank god I learned it well so that we can easily speak in German…

… that's right!
Thank you. You know, the German accent is difficult to learn. But when you have enough motivation, you can learn something even if it's complicated.

What did you help most to learn it?

What helped me most were my German friends, because since I have come here I could always speak and exercise with them. Also I got to know many people in my language course with whom I could speak. You see, as a foreigner here in Germany, I just needed contact!


Ahmeds vocabulary excercises.

You are far away from home – do you miss your home country?
Of course! I miss my family and my friends and…the sun! In Iraq, the sun is always there and when the sun doesn't come out one day, there is something wrong (laughing). You just want to go outside, on the streets to enjoy the sun, to smell the flowers, to smell that everything is okay. It would be perfect if there was a country with sunshine like in Iraq and the stability like in Germany (laughing).

Perhaps Iraqi people will achieve this goal earlier than you expect?

To get this amount of stability, Iraq will need a lot of time. At least three or four generations, I think.

How do you get your money for living here?
Since more than a year, I have got support from the DAAD. At the end of January I will know if the DAAD prolongs the support. If I won't get it any longer, perhaps my Iraqi university will give me support or I will have to work here.

You are part of the pilot group of Iraqi students studying spatial planning in Dortmund. Which were your reasons to apply for studying here?
Mostly personal reasons. I couldn't continue my electro technical studies at Diyala University. I tried changing to the University of Baghdad and wrote to the education ministry, but I didn't get a place there. I was about to break up my studies but then I read this offer in the ministry of higher education in Baghdad. It was a dream. I always wanted to go abroad!

What is different between Iraqi and German universities?
The interaction between the teachers and the students is totally different. In Iraq it's very hierarchic. Some professors like when students have to beg for their grades like slaves in front of them. Here in Germany, professors are open and friendly, they talk and laugh with me and I can behave like a human being. Everybody is treated equally. Briefly: In Iraq, some teachers are like dictators; in Germany they are just like friends.

Are you happy, that your courses will start soon?
Yes, very happy. You see, I've been here in Germany for a long time now but I don't feel like I'm studying. I want to begin my studies now, so that I am sure that I am a part of TU Dortmund University. Up to now, I haven't got much insight in spatial planning issues. Before I came here, I didn't hear anything about what spatial planning means. It doesn't exist in Iraq. We just have got architecture and the orders of the president what should be built.

Which plans and dreams do you have about what to do after having finished your studies here?

I would like to continue studying until I have the master degree. I want to have a certain academic level, so that people listen to me when I come back to Iraq. Also, I will learn more German and more English here, because I would like to work as a translator, too.

What is different between our culture and the way of living in Iraq?
Oh, everything is different. For example, sometimes the humor is different. People laugh about things which people in my home country wouldn't laugh about. The mentality is different, more quiet and decent. Then, the way of eating and drinking is different. I could continue with so many things…
Ahmed in his room in Dortmund. After one and a half year in Dortmund, do you feel at home here?
I feel at home here, although sometimes it's really hard to get along…

Which effects does it have on your personality to be abroad for a long time and to live in another culture?
Sure, it has some impact on my personality to be here. I am totally responsible for myself here, that's why I get more self-confident. These experiences I get in a totally different culture are worth more than anything else in the world. At first, I was a bit frightened, but not any longer - now I am proud of myself because I'm learning.

Concerning spatial planning issues – which problems do you see in Iraq?
I think, at first the corruption has to be defeated, that's the most important. At the moment, you can't trust many people in Iraq. There are a lot of conflicts and, really, peace is far away. Also, people think more with their hearts than with their minds. They are complaining but not thinking about the solutions. You know, when somebody dies in a car accident because the streets are in such a bad shape, people cry and cry and complain but they don't start thinking about improving the street.

And which chances and advantages do you witness for development in Iraq?
At the moment, I don't see any in Iraq. We are building castles in the air. It will take a long time to develop visions. There is potential in the poor people. Poor people can work really well and hard. If we find a way to activate the huge amount of poor people, if we manage to create work for them, there is potential for faster development.

Thank you for our conversation and all the best for your studies!



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