The Refugee Student Scholarship Network

The Refugee Student Scholarship Network gets involved (via individual sponsorships) in the funding of scholarships offered by an American-German liberal arts college (Bard College Berlin) for up to 20 young refugees.

von Marion Detjen

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Mohamad Mashgdost, 18, from Iran, reads his poems aloud along with other young Farsi-speaking refugees. They are bringing cultural capital to Europe that must be acknowledged and used. The Refugee Student Scholarship taps into this potential and is currently supporting Bard College Berlin in financing stipends for Liberal Arts bachelor degrees. Berlin 2016. Foto: Tamar Maare/Alexander Beatty

Do we want a situation in which newcomers get food, accommodation and work but otherwise keep their mouths’ shut? Or do we want to talk to them, learn from them and together interpret the world we share? The Refugee Student Scholarship Network dovetails with other projects Wirmachendas is using to give newcomers a voice and the chance to interpret the world. The network is particularly useful when it comes to funding, as it provides academic support for scholarships, making it possible for newcomers and young people who are still living in conflict zones or who are on their way here to enrol at a liberal arts college in Berlin and work towards a Bachelor’s degree they can then use in four years’ time to play a role in culture and the media.

The idea behind the project started with Marwan, a young Syrian who’s now going to study at an elite university in the US, although he would have liked to stay in Europe. He’s an intellectual and, rather than becoming an engineer or doctor, he wants a career in which he can write, analyse and interpret, and make a difference to society. There’s still no place at German universities for someone like Marwan, however. Language hurdles, bureaucratic hurdles and hurdles born of Germany’s academic tradition make it too difficult for intellectuals and newcomers interested in humanities and social science to get started. Marwan can avoid it all by going to America, but many others can’t and are in danger of falling out of the education system and sliding into the low-wage sector.

The Refugee Student Scholarship Network gets involved (via individual sponsorships) in the funding of scholarships offered by an American-German liberal arts college (Bard College Berlin) for up to 20 young refugees. Unlike German universities, Bard College Berlin isn’t interested in restrictive degree-recognition conditions but is instead fully flexible in its selection of scholarship holders, and it can address their personal needs. The network helps with contacts, mentors, academic and intellectual input, and with regular events that reflect and discuss refugees’ situations with them.

Translation: Nickolas Woods