How much is too much?

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We’re approaching our last few days here in Tübingen, Germany and we are trying to attend as many meetings, seminars and classes as possible. Our days are becoming increasingly busier as we connect with more people in the region yet we are often unable to share everything that we are doing due to confidentiality. However, we appreciate your continued support as we continue to better understand the refugee crisis abroad and seek out information and resources that we can bring home with us. We would like to share with you some of our experiences in our last few meetings.

Last week we had the opportunity to sit in on an information meeting with several migrants and refugees who are attending the University of Tübingen.  During this meeting we talked about the concept of identity as it relates to people living in different countries. It was emphasized that identity is not static but rather always moving and growing with each and every experience that a human has. However, this identity can become confusing when you move to a place whose culture is so different from your own. Often time’s native citizens will tell you that you need to mold your identity to fit their cultural standards. Yet, how much molding is too much? What does it mean to fit in but still be yourself?

In a meeting with a trauma expert the concept of identity came up once again. We talked about the balance of a refugee’s new culture along with their native culture. Again, how much molding is too much? You want a refugee to understand their new culture and fit in but you also want them to maintain who they are, to hold on to their roots. There are no “How to” books for this, no studies or statistics. Refugees and aid workers must figure it out on their own, silently struggling to determine how much change is too much. One of the extreme examples that we were provided with is the topic of polygamy. Some of the refugee men coming to Germany are arriving from regions where polygamy is highly practiced and encouraged. So they’re entering the country with four wives. However, in Germany this is considered illegal. But how do you tell a man that he has to choose just one of his four wives to be married to? I’m not taking a stance on polygamy but I am saying that the conversation that has to be had is clearly difficult for both parties involved.

We’ve had multiple other meetings with people who continue to teach, support and inspire us. We are truly grateful for the experiences we are having in Germany and are looking forward to using our newfound knowledge to better the projects we are working on back home in Allentown. We ask that you continue to maintain an open mind about the refugee crisis and the newcomers who are settling in and around your hometowns. They are coming from backgrounds that we will never be able to comprehend and many are carrying mental scars. We have been taught that stability, safety and structure are some of the greatest things for a refugee. Yet, a friendly smile, a cup of tea and an ear willing to listen also go a long way.

-Katie

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