I came to Germany in 1991 to study medicine. Like most of us Zambians here, I didn´t know one single German word when I came to this country. After 10 months at a medical language school (which felt like a crash course) in Quedlinburg (in Sachsen-Anhalt), I with two other Zambian students started my studies in human medicine at the Humboldt University in Berlin. You can imagine how tough the beginning was; sitting in a fully packed lecture hall and half of the things the lecturer is explaining passes you by. On top of that, you have some people around you looking down on you and acting like they are more intelligent than you are! But where there is a will, there is a way! Through many hours in the library catching up on what you didn´t understand during the lecture, we earned our respect with time, and were even doing better than most of those who thought they were better than us at the beginning and we graduated from medical school, just like anybody.
After that, with intentions of going back to Zambia, I did a course in tropical medicine, also in Berlin preparing myself for tropical diseases, since we didn´t learn much about them during the studies. But then personal circumstances changed my plans and I decided to stay and do my internship in Germany, which I did in a General Practitioners also in Berlin. The intentions where still those of going back home after the Internship, but towards the end of this, again fate (sad and tough issues) made me stay and I had no choice but to come to Emden (a name and town I had never heard of before) to do my specialisation in Internal Medicine (diagnosis and treatment of diseases of internal organs like the heart, lungs, stomach, Intestines, etc.) I did this and worked in the only hospital of the town (population of about 50 000) and 18 years later, I am still in Emden
I loved my work and ,,family” in the hospital, but after years of long working hours, ,sleepless night shifts, working almost every weekend and at the same time bringing up a little child on my own, I decided to leave the hospital and I was lucky enough to get a job with Volkswagen in Emden to work as a company doctor in the field called occupational medicine, which was a complete change and another challenge for me because it was totally different from the clinical medicine I was used to in the hospital. In occupational medicine we don´t focus on treatment and cure but on prevention of illnesses/diseases, especially those that can be caused through the work (e. g. working with chemicals, working in unfavourable posture, etc.). We also provide emergency services for any acute illnesses or accidents in the factory (has about 9 000 workers). Another challenge was, coming to work for such a big global company (VW employs about 670 000 workers worldwide), in what actually still is “a man´s world”. The work is challenging and demanding, but I can now positively look back to 10 years of being there, and six or seven years ago, I worked myself up to management level. When I attend meetings or other “high ranked” functions, I am mostly one of the very few women there and in 99% of the time the only black woman.
I´m mentioning all this not because I want to show off (actually it’s the first time I´m “opening up” 😊), but to try to motivate and show that everything is possible in life and in this country; you just have to take the challenges that come your way and to know which values escorts you along the way.
failure is not an option
I would like to give a little bit of advice and much encouragement to all the “new” Zambians who are intending to stay in this country for a while or for long, also to those who have been here a while but still trying to find their place in this society. I´ve been in this country quite a while, so I am speaking out of personal experiences and achievements:
- Learn the language as soon and as much as possible; only being able to say “Dankeschön!” or “Wie geht´s?” is simply not enough. We all know that it is a difficult language to learn, but that shouldn´t be an excuse, we all had to go through it too!
- Don´t be easily intimidated and made to feel small or “inferior” and less intelligent by some people around you who think and act like they are “superior” to you or more intelligent than you. If you are here for an honest purpose, are working hard towards that purpose and are abiding to the laws; then hold and keep your head up (at times when necessary even your nose too)! That´s one of the reasons you need the power of the language for, otherwise you might end up laughing with those who are laughing at you.
" Everything is possible in life and in this country; you just have to take the challenges hat come your way and to know which values escorts you along the way "
- Every now and then, fate might change your paths/plans and the changes might occur more often than you would like, but whatever alternative providence brings your way, grab and take advantage of it rather than despairing and giving up. Your professional background/field/business is of little significance, what you do for a living should not be the thing that matters most. However, always aspire to do your best in your respectable field or area of profession, because at the end of the day, it is not degrees or any other titles that will define you, but your personality and what you made out of the chances/opportunities you were presented with. Another integral point to note and carry with; is making sure you don´t lose yourself and your values along the way, stay true to yourself!
- Set your priorities right! There is no need to rush for that “big money” or big fancy car, just because you want to show off to people back home. Germany is (mostly) not a “showy” place, so use your opportunity of being here to sort out what is important first and the rest will follow.
- Never forget where you come from and the people, culture and values that you were brought up with that made you who you are today as well as who you will be tomorrow! If you are intending on going back to Zambia, don’t take too long as the excuses and reasons not to, become more and in the end, it gets harder with time though it is never too late!
Finally, never forget to count your blessings! Always be thankful and grateful to the higher powers that paves your way and to those who encourage and support you along it!
Stay blessed and safe!