University Without Borders: “I learned that I can be at home anywhere.”

In 2016, Abdul Alzuabi took part in the In(2)TU Berlin program for refugees. Just four years later, he completed his master´s degree in Civil Engineering.

Abdul Alzuabi has arrived – in Germany, in Berlin, at Technische Universität Berlin. He has achieved a great deal since having to leave Damascus due to the war and setting out on his long journey as a refugee, finally arriving in the German capital in 2015. He has learned German, completed his master´s thesis on the examination of lateral overtaking distances of motor vehicles to cyclists when driving in mixed transportation environments, received a scholarship from the Heinrich Böll Foundation and found himself a flat share with friends in a housing project. He has had unrestricted residency status for one year. Abdul Alzuabi laughs. The pleasure he takes in his success becomes him. It has not been easy and the German language and German bureaucracy were his two greatest challenges.

The In(2)TU Berlin program prepares refugee prospective students to study for a degree at a German university

Abdul left Damascus with a degree in civil engineering. Berlin was his destination. “As it is for everyone else,” he says. A friend drew his attention to In(2)TU Berlinwhich enables refugees a lower-threshold entry to studies and an opportunity, should they wish, to acquire credit points. This was a great chance for Abdul, at that time just 24.

He didn´t want to lose any time. Just three months later, he was a guest auditor and one of the first students in the program. “We had no role models to help us,” he recalls. It is a very different matter today. Since then, some 660 refugees (as of February 2020) have taken part in the In (2)TU Berlin program. The overwhelming majority, some 80 percent, come from Syria. The second biggest group is from Iran, followed by Afghanistan and Iraq. “But we also have refugee students and prospective students from Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Palestine, and Turkey,” says Katharina Kube, the program project leader.

Abdul Alzuabi´s first steps took him to the Academic Advising Service, which advises students and prospective students with migration backgrounds about their options for studying at TU Berlin. “We held more than 6000 advising sessions with refugees in the Academic Advising Service between 2015 and the start of 2020,” says Katharina Kube.

STEM language courses and buddy programs prepared him for his studies

Abdul, who is from Syria, took just 11 months to learn German. He attended the Preparatory School´s STEM language courses to prepare him to study at TU Berlin, achieving C1 level in his exams. “All my focus was on learning German,” he says. He didn´t have time to attend lectures as well. He was already learning technical terms alongside everyday German and academic German.

Abdul Alzuabi also registered for the Buddy Program. The program brings refugees and TU students into contact with one another. They explore the campus together and speak German. The buddy tandem didn´t last long. “I quickly found friends of my own,” says Abdul.

Successful application for a place in the master´s program in Civil Engineering

Being able to attend TU Berlin so soon after his arrival in Germany helped him to integrate. Going to university gave his life a structure and he learned how to deal with bureaucracy. “The program provided me with intensive preparation for my life as a student at TU Berlin.”

His lecturers also helped him with his application for the master´s program in Civil Engineering. “I began my master´s just two weeks after completing a language course at the Preparatory School,” he says proudly. And just one semester later, he was working as a student assistant in Academic Advising, helping refugees “I knew from my own experience just how important this work is,” he says. Abdul Alzuabi has been working for one year as site management assistant in a medium-sized company. “I also have my education at TU Berlin to thank for this,” he says.

Abdul Alzuabi sees Berlin as his home, just as Damascus was once and Paris might one day be. “I learned that I can be at home anywhere,” he says. With the right support at the right time.

Offers for refugee prospective students

TU Berlin was the first university in Berlin to offer a program for refugee prospective student. In addition to In(2)TU Berlin, there are a number of decentralized programs:

TU Berlin also commits to supporting refugee researchers and is a member of the network Scholars at Risk.


In(2)TU Berlin

Academic Advising Service

Building Hauptgebäude
Room H 0070