You started working quite fast after your graduation. How did you experience the process of finding a job?
You know, in my case it wasn’t really all that difficult. It actually seems like a long process to me, because I had already started working at DOMiD during my third or fourth semester. Initially, I worked there once a week for about three to four hours, doing easy jobs, and quickly got to know everyone working there. In hindsight, you could say, I built a personal relationship with the team at DOMiD before building a professional one. But it was always very clear to me that, of course, I didn’t want to remain in a student position at DOMiD after graduating. That is something I discussed with my colleagues during the apprenticeship I completed there as well. Luckily, as soon as I graduated I had two job offers, one was to stay here at DOMiD, basically, but in a new position, and the other job offer came from an organisation in Berlin. So the decision I had to make was essentially about what topic would be the right one for me to get involved in. DOMiD mainly focuses on migration, migration history, integration and refugees. The position in Berlin would have been much more gender-focused. Both of them are fascinating subject areas which I had both addressed in my bachelor, but in the end the fact that I already knew the team convinced me to choose DOMiD. I also didn’t feel like moving because I have a very satisfying personal life here in Cologne. It was actually a very fluent process that centred around the two questions ‘Where would I rather live?’ and ‘What topic would I rather deal with?’ and migration is, as far as I am concerned, THE central topic at the moment.
So, you are now working at DOMiD in Cologne. Can you tell us more about its mission and your role within the organisation?
Sure, I’d be glad to. DOMiD is a registered association whose mission is to change the German narrative with regard to migration. As I understand it, there are a lot of myths or stereotypes, that exist around the topic of migration and migration history in Germany and we strive to debunk these myths by way of research, by working with facts and by taking a close look at history and its meaning for modern day society. We are also on our way to establishing the first national migration museum in Germany, a project of major significance, which DOMiD has been developing for over 20 years now. – And my specific areas of responsibility are operations and public relations. My duties include preparing, organising and leading guided tours, as well as managing our social media platforms and public relations. About half of my time is taken up by showing groups from universities and schools, or politicians, actors, and other people interested in DOMiD around and introducing them to our work and mission. The other part of my work is focused on writing news releases and other contents for Facebook and Twitter, improving and updating our homepage and maintaining our relationship to the press, especially here in Cologne.
What do you find challenging about your job?
Oh wow, this is a big question. I think, anytime you work in the field of migration the most challenging issue, especially with regard to the current political situation in Germany, is experiencing just how many myths – I’ll be polite – how many myths and stereotypes exist. To try and figure out where these come from and why they are being disseminated, without being judgmental yourself by saying things like ‘Everyone who doesn’t understand migration belongs to the right-wing party AFD’ or something similar, is definitely demanding work. You cannot allow yourself to be lazy, but really have to think and try hard to understand why people hold preconceived notions about certain matters. And the most challenging part is to then find a way to overcome these often stereotypical ideas. How do I tell people that something they are convinced about has another side to it, perhaps isn’t even true, and how do I prove the opposite?
Which skills that you have acquired during your bachelor in Gender and Diversity are most useful for your work life?
That’s a good question. A lot, I would say. My study programme introduced me to a range of sociological theories that focus on topics like identity construction or memories. When you study a sociological subject you basically study relationships between people, between people and things, habits, and why people act the way they do. If I had to sum it up, that’s what my undergraduate studies were about essentially. The relationship between people and objects is something that every museum deals with, so of course that makes up a big part of my daily duties. In addition, I spend four hours a day accompanying some 40 people through our facilities, listening to their stories and telling them mine. That way I am also dealing with examples of relationships between people every day. Accordingly, I think, having been introduced to a broad range of social theories that deal with these topics has helped me a lot to put aside my own ideas and opinions on what I think people are, and instead look at relationships in a very objective and scientific way. Of course, this approach doesn’t give you the answer to every question, but it is good to be able to fall back on this very useful perspective based on these theories.
Based on your own experiences, what would you recommend current and prospective Gender and Diversity students?
My biggest advice: be courageous. Don’t let other people tell you what it is you are supposed to do with your field of studies. I didn’t let people tell me that, otherwise I’d never have made it into a migration museum. I would have assumed working there requires a degree in history or ethnology and I didn’t study either of these subjects, you see? Had I listened to everyone else, I wouldn’t have gotten the job. That’s very clear to me. And if you study Gender and Diversity, similar questions are bound to come up, for example when you are doing a job interview. You tell people what you’ve studied and they will most likely ask you: ‘What is that?’ This field of study is just not very well-known yet. Keep in mind that many may have heard the buzzwords Gender and Diversity, but most of them are no experts. That is why I would like all of you to be courageous and really argue your case. I had a very clear idea of why I thought the topics of gender and diversity belong in a migration museum, I was able to articulate that idea and that is why it all worked out so well for me, I think. Had I been a little bit shyer, people would have perhaps decided to choose a candidate with a degree in history. I am actually the only one here at the museum who has a degree in sociology and that turned out to be a great benefit for the team. I can offer an additional perspective and add to the diversity of DOMiD.
You were also president of the student parliament, so can you tell me something about that? Would you recommend it? What did you do?
Oh gosh, how did I get involved? Rhine-Waal University had been founded not too long before I took up my studies, which gave students a lot of room to contribute to shaping the University. It was just the right time and place to help set up ways for students to participate in the University’s activities and I was interested to do that. I really thought that such a young university needed students to speak up and be active. And it was great to be a part of that, I would recommend it to anybody, I had a blast and it was a very interesting year. Back then, we were dealing with more basic topics than the student parliament is today. It was more about budget issues and establishing AStA, which was still in its infancy at the time. My biggest success during my time as the student parliament president was just the fact – and this may sound insignificant but it truly was a big thing - that I managed to establish a lot of structure. One achievement was that the University President would meet with me once each semester to discuss a number of topics, such as the lack of student housing or the difficulties students had when traveling between Kamp-Lintfort and Kleve Campus without a proper bus or train connection. I had to be happy with small progress but I was! It was a really good time.
Now that we’re already taking a trip down memory lane, what is your best memory of your time at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences?
My best memory…I have three actually. There’s the first day! I still remember this day as if it was yesterday. I was the first one in my family to go to university, so this day was a big moment. I was quite old for a first-year student because I started studying when I turned 30. Being a migrant myself, I spent a lot of time working and learning German, before enrolling at a university. I remember seeing my fellow students for the first time and just thinking to myself ‘Oh my god, will they like me!? Will I like them!? What are we going to do? What does Gender and Diversity actually mean?’, thoughts along these lines, which made the first day a very vivid memory. And the last day is, too. I remember walking up on to the stage to receive my degree certificate thinking: ‘I can’t believe how quickly time has flown by!’ And finally, my final study phase is very a memorable time, as well, because I truly enjoyed writing my bachelor’s thesis. My topic centred on the Bundesteilhabegesetz or the German Federal Participation Act which had just come into force. As part of my thesis I had the opportunity to work at the Bundestag, the German Parliament, for four months which was amazing. By the way, I also enjoyed the city of Kleve. A lot of people usually laugh when they hear ‘Kleve’ but I thought it was nice (laughs).
Final question: What are your plans for the future?
Well, after my bachelor’s thesis I really wanted to work scientifically, so the most significant question was how to proceed in order to reach this goal. I hadn’t actually considered this option before studying, because I hadn’t been aware of what a scientific career meant. Now what are my plans? Next to my work I am currently also studying for a master’s degree in Gender and Queer Studies at the University of Cologne, which means I am continuing in the same scientific direction. And as far as my professional career is concerned, I really would like to continue researching. Who knows, if an opportunity presents itself I might even do a doctorate, but I will definitely continue to pursue a scientific career.