Interviewee 1: Jade Tucker - UWS Student
Interviewee 2: Kylie Cochran - CSS Student
Interviewee 3: Natasha Reisler - UMD Student
[Interviewer] I want to thank the three of you for taking the time to get together at the end of our
experiences here in Schwebheim knowing that we've already been in Berlin. To have someone representing the College of St. Scholastica, the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and the University of Wisconsin-Superior has been delightful as has been traveling with all of you. What I would like to just ask you is to invite you to talk a bit about your experience here. If each of you would share some of what you're learning what you're noticing. Who would like to start?
[Jade] I can start. This was my first time traveling out of the country; and I hardly traveled in
country, so this was major for me. I've actually been adjusting, I think pretty well, to like the time difference. I'm a little tired; but the food, I've been able to eat well. Everyone we've met has been so nice and welcoming. It's been a comfort to be over here, which is awesome; and I'm learning so much that I knew there was to learn, but I couldn't necessarily access at home.
[Interviewer] Okay, alright, and how about you Kylie?
[Kylie] This has been a really wonderful experience. It's been really interesting to learn both about the history of Germany, some of the history of Germany and also kind of alongside of it the history of Syria and the current conflict there. I think the most impactful thing has been making connections and relationships with the Syrian refugees here in Schwerin. Hearing their stories has been so powerful and very, let's see eye opening, impactful
[Jade] yeah impactful. Epiphanated
[Interviewer] Epiphanated That's a new word that's been created here. It's a lovely word. What about your experiences?
[Natasha] I just think that this has been such an amazing opportunity. I've from a small town in North Dakota so I never imagined that I would interact with individuals from Syria. Individuals from Turkey, just, it's just broadening my horizons and I've learned so many new things. Like tried new food and just the interactions with people. I just can't even find the right words to describe what I've feeling. But I'm so grateful I've had this opportunity to actually interact with people from different cultures.
[Interviewer] What I've heard all of you say, at some level, is about the interaction with people. I'm wondering if each of you would take time to maybe share an experience you had with someone here. That touches you.
[Jade] If I could start, I was invited over for dinner at... Can I say her name?
[Interviewer] Go ahead.
[Jade] At Rama's house. She, her brother, and her neighbor, who's actually one of their friends, ate dinner with us—or we ate dinner with them. We were talking about family relations and connections, like Rama has her brother here. We were talking about what it's like to have siblings or friend when they don't have any siblings here. That really touched me because I'm really close with my younger brother. I like to think I am. When I tried to imagine being in their shoes, I almost broke down crying thinking that I would have to leave my brother at home; and that was what hit me most. Just realizing that we see a lot of people here; but each person counts for three, four, a dozen, how many more that are still in these crisis situations in Syria, in the other countries that are being affected.
[Interviewer] Okay, so your experience with Rama and her family has really touched you? How about you?
[Kylie] It's hard to pick just one because I think I've had a lot of experiences that have really shaped my experience here.
[Interviewer] Maybe share a couple, that's fine.
[Kylie] One that comes to mind, it was just recently. I was working in the garden here at the Center with Asem; and we were talking about the political situation in the Middle East, in Syria and Palestine in particular. And he was sharing some of his experience over in Syria. One of his friends was in prison and was beaten to death. And that really was a moment that was a catalyst for him, being involved in the resistance. I think it was really exciting to share with him. He said that this is why we have to change the American perception of the Middle East, because it's so important for people to know what's actually going on and what Syrian people and Middle Eastern people in general are actually like.
[Interviewer] Um hum, any other experiences? You shared that you had some experiences that stick out for you.
[Kylie] Yeah, I mean I had a really great experience with Rama as well. She was very hospitable and every time we interacted with her, she was so kind and helped us navigate Schwerin; it was just a wonderful experience.
[Interviewer] Thank you, thanks. How about you?
[Natasha] I also was at Rama's house last night. I couldn't imagine leaving my family either. I don't know how they go through that. Like, I would just be struggling all the time. I would be crying. I just, I wouldn't be thinking positive about it. But they are so positive about it. They just try like to make the best out of a situation and they don't let them get down, sort of thing. My other interaction with a person, was a woman from Turkey. Well she was born in Germany; but she has Turkey roots, Turkish roots. Sorry. She doesn't feel like she belongs either in like Turkey or Germany; and she even asked us "Like who do you think I am more? "Like what culture am I am more?" I just looked at her and I was like I have no idea. So, I couldn't even imagine trying to pick a side or being confused about like who I am as a person and where do I belong sort of thing. So that just really hit my heart pretty hard because I'm like I wish I could give you an answer, but I can't sort of thing.
[Interviewer] Um hum. So, when you take a look at some of the experiences and some of the opportunities you had meeting people, engaging with people, learning about their stories, that's been a part of this adventure. What about some of the challenges you've had? Either getting around physically, you know what's been happening outside? Or what's been happening inside with you? Your thoughts; your feelings. What have been some challenges?
[Jade] An obvious challenge would be the language. Not many of us knew German coming in, and we all know that we are intelligent people. Most of us have just graduated, are graduated, or are graduating from our universities; and to go into a cafe and not be able to say "I would like this please" makes me feel kind of stupid. And we know we are not stupid.
[Interviewer] And you're not.
[Jade] Yeah but that's exactly what's happening with these persons of refugee status that come in.
They know English, a lot of them. But not all German people know English, or we're hearing they don't like to speak English. So, to feel like that every day; it's like a circle of just pain and hardship.
[Interviewer] Okay, so the language has been a challenge? I'm seeing some nodding. Other challenges that you faced as students here?
[Natasha] Just me personally, I've been feeling privileged. Like, I've, I don't know, I guess I have been privileged my whole life. I haven't had to like fight to get things. Like I haven't, like everything has been given to me sort of in a way; and it's been making me, I don't know if the term guilty feels like is the right term to describe it, but I don't know I just feel like I don't even know how to describe it. I just...
[Interviewer] So when you say the word privilege, what does that mean to you?
[Natasha] It means like I feel safe in my home. I can pay for my own things. Like I can go to the grocery store to buy some food. I can buy clothes; I can buy shoes. It just, I don't know, I feel like I have more access to things; and I don't have to like leave my home for a better life somewhere sort of thing, or to just get away from the wars or any other reasons. I don't know if that makes sense.
[Interviewer] So language, and some internal thoughts about a sense of privilege. Okay, an ease that I have in life because of where I live and who I am?
[Kylie] I think I would echo what Natasha had to say about privilege. It's something I've been wrestling with a lot as well. In particular, when I have been out in the town with persons of refugee status, like Rama, I've noticed a lot of racism in the way that people look, in their reactions. I walked past a group of teenage girls with Rama and, sorry it's hard. They were making gagging noises and pointing, and so that's been difficult to witness and to realize that it's happening here to such beautiful people.
[Natasha] I just have to add to that. It's made me realize that people don't treat individuals with refugee status as human beings. They just treat them as refugees, and I think people forget that they are human beings just like us.
[Interviewer] So you have all had opportunities to grow, to change, to learn. You've had some challenges to face. You've had some reflecting to do. You've seen some things that have been inspiring and also some things that have been painful. Knowing that this will be shared with other students and faculty across the United States who are being trained in Social Work, from this experience that you've been having, what would you like to share with them? What would you want them to know?
[Kylie] I can go.
[Natasha] Or you can go.
[Kylie] Go ahead.
[Natasha] Just experience what I did. Go on a trip. Just interact with the individuals because it's different than reading an article online about what's happening vs. actually meeting someone in person who is going through it. It just opens your mind up more and just makes you learn better about the situation. So just getting out there, getting involved.
[Interviewer] Get involved.
[Kylie] What I had to say was very similar to what Natasha
[Kylie] No it's okay, I have little more to add.
[Natasha] Okay, good.
[Kylie] I think first of all I would encourage people to educate themselves especially about issues going on in the Middle East because I feel sometimes the journalism in the US is biased towards Western ideas. Also, I would encourage people to, if they have the opportunity, to travel somewhere. I think a lot of the social justice issues in other countries can help teach us about our country; and the sort of issues that are prevalent there can help us be more aware of those things.
[Jade] Kind of adding on. We have, with the privilege and the guilt, we came here; and at each refugee agency, at each home we visited, we were treated so very well. Like we would have coffee and treats, and that's where my guilt came in because I would look around the room and know they didn't receive this. Not necessarily because they didn't want to, but because they couldn't. And so, when we learn about it as students and faculty, to realize we still have that privileged lens on and that's something we can't forget. Then using that as a reminder as we learn about the issues facing this population, facing the German population as far as economics vs. humanity and such; and so to really use our critical thinking skills to think about who is telling us this information, what do they have to gain from it, what is being left out—to question it. Questioning is very important especially in social justice because we have to keep in mind it's for everyone, and everyone is a lot of people.
[Interviewer] So as I listen, what I'm hearing is, through your sharing, just the centrality of the relationships of people you've met. New relationships. Maybe also some of the relationships you are forming with each other as students. Taking a look at how the role of social justice plays in the whole scheme of things, and to evolve from that to be really informed about what is going on in the world. Those are some things that I hear each of you share. Would any of you like to share any last words? About your experience? What you would like others to know?
[Jade] I would. I never thought I would need to know about this. I knew that, you know, this was important; and we needed it. I would like my country involved, and I hope passionate people get to that. But to be a Social Worker means we can't turn a blind eye, even if it's not our specific field, because it does impact all issues.
[Interviewer] Important words. Anything else.
[Natasha] I second what she said. She said it perfectly. She said it perfectly.
[Interviewer] I want to thank all three of you for your time and I want to encourage you to enjoy the rest of the day. There's going to be a barbecue, and they're playing some games. We're going to take a look at some of the work you've done outside. We are going to get that filmed. So, thank you so much for your time today. Appreciate it.
[Jade] Thank you.
[Kylie] Thank you.
[Natasha] Thank you.