There truly seems to be an organisation for ANY purpose

I have trouble sleeping lately. And as always when I’m lying in bed and it’s dark and quiet, my mind begins to wander like at no other time during the day. With all the worries of how Ali and I will be able to live together permanently in the future I naturally spend a lot of time researching on governmental websites, trying to understand criteria, conditions and laws. So while lying in the pitch black a thought passed through my mind: “I really wish there was any organisation of people who has already gone through this whole process and who are willing to share their knowledge and guide others through the same situation they have been in.” I  thought once Ali and me are through with this I should definitely start something like that – although I would most probably just want to forget about the hassle that is annoying me out of mind already before it has even really started.

And well, because I could not sleep, anyway, I grabbed my mobile lying on my bedside locker and searched Google for an organisation like that. I don’t know why exactly it surprised me that I actually found one. A German one. An organisation with an office in my hometown. And free advisory service. What?

I guess it surprised me because I had never heard of “Verband internationaler Familien und Partnerschaften” (Association of International Families and Partnerships) during all the years in this binational long-distance relationship when I have been reading associated blogs and forums all this time (eff you Google rankings!). The association does not only help (married) couples to make it to live together but also argues against racial discrimination and racism, and for cultural diversity, integration and many other topics that concern couples from two different countries and/or cultures:

“This association represents the interests of binational families and partnerships throughout Germany. We support the social and legal equality of people regardless of their skin color or their cultural origin. We work as a non-profit organization in more than 20 cities in and outside of Germany. Counseling women and men regarding all issues of binational marriages and relationships is one focus of our work. We use legal restrictions and the various forms of disadvantage and discrimination as an opportunity to inform the public and to provide a basis for dialogue between the organization and the federal government. One of our most important tasks is to highlight the chances and possibilities that arise when people of different cultures live together.
(Verband binationaler Familien und Partnerschaften)

This is what I really appreaciate about Germany: there are clubs and organisation for whatsoever “silly” purpose you can think of. And while may only a minority of the population can actually identify with the goals of each single one, the minorities are exactly the ones who need someone to speak up for them.

Although our primary goal is for Ali to take German class in Germany first, whenever it comes to marrying it is good to know that there are people you can turn to for help and that obviously you are not as alone as you think you are. And after all, marrying and all the paperwork that comes with it might not be as far away as I like to think…Hail bureaucracy!

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My thoughts are with Venezuela

Solidary demonstration for the Venezuelan opposition in Berlin, Germany (Credit by venezuela-europa.blogspot.com)

I am so sorry I have not been updating as fequently as I wanted to. When starting this blog about two weeks ago little did I know how the situation in Venezuela would develop. At the moment I spend most of my spare time reading blogs (such as caracaschronicles.com) and Twitter posts, watching videos and news. With the situation in Ucraine seemingly more or less resolved and the Winter Olympics of Sochi being over the international media has finally begun focussing on events in Venezuela. Although it still gives me shivers to watch masked protesters throwing tear gas canisters back at the security forces I am happy to open Facebook in the morning and see big online newspapers like Spiegel Online and Die Welt report.

There have been a few solidary demonstrations for the Venezuelan opposition in Germany the past weekend, and although I only know of Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne and Heidelberg this is more than I expected. It gives me hope, though, because I feel like I am not the only one sitting in her safe and comfortable German home thinking of dear ones in Venezuela who have to go through such a time of insecurity. I have looked for demonstrations somewhere near my hometown but did not find any. Maybe joining a demonstration (without the fear of getting shot) and screaming out the frustration that has been slowly building inside of me would give me some kind of relief.

Anyhow, kudos to those who organized the demonstrations and produced some really nice images to share on the web as well!


Update:
Looks like there have also been actions in Regensburg and Hamburg (boo, and I didn’t know!)

Learning German: Goethe Institut

So, as I promised yesterday I will start highlighting different German language schools in Germany and I would like with the Goethe Institut. On their website they claim to be the “world-wide market leader for teaching German” and well, that is probably true. They were my first guess when we were thinking about the right German course for Ali. Their schools have a very high reputation among employers in Germany and abroad and offer a great variety of different German course concepts, such as courses especially for children and teenagers, professionals and intensive courses. I took a closer look at the “intensive 4” course because it is easier to compare a 4-week/one-month course with offers from other schools. Here is a list of what the course includes:

  • max. class size: 16
  • intensive language training from Monday to Friday
  • all levels
  • placement test at the beginning of the course
  • systematic advice on your learning path, including a learning portfolio
  • opportunity to take an examination at the end of the course
  • all course materials
  • self-directed and supported learning in the media resource center
  • extensive cultural and leisure program

In the follwing I will point out the main advantages and disadvantages of this school. I have also read many reviews to come up with a more reliable judgement since we haven’t decided for any school, yet.

The pro’s

  • The website: This might sound silly but for me nothing is worse than a website where you don’t find the information you’re looking for almost immediately. Their website is clearly structured and arranged and you find the information you’re looking for in the place you would naturally look for it – probably even in your first language. Sounds self-evident but sadly it’s not. It’s unthinkable how many horrible websites are still out there – what year is it?
  • Variety of cities: There are schools all over Germany so you are free to choose what part of Germany you would like to get to know when you’re not in class. The locations for the 4-weeks intensive course are Berlin, Bonn, Bremen, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Freiburg, Göttingen, Hamburg, Mannheim, Munich and Schwäbisch Hall.
  • Language course + internship: Goethe Institut isn’t the only school to offer a language course in combination with a subsequent internship but I think it’s a great opportunity to gain professional experience for anyone who plans on working in Germany in the future.
  • High reputation among employers: As I mentioned above the courses at Goethe Institut are highly recognized among employers. Here is a quote that struck me while reading about people’s experience with Goethe Institute: “People all over the world recognize the Goethe Institut. As an example, a friend of mine passed the DAF [German as foreign language test] and ZOP [C2 level] examinations last year. Both of those are state sponsored examinations. When he showed them to his American employer, he was asked whether he could provide a Goethe-Zertifikat instead!” – To be fair, the ZOP has been integrated into the C2-Goethe certificate in 2012, but it’s still speaking for the reputation of Goethe Institut.
  • Employees seem to know what they’re talking about: When I called at Goethe Institute to get personal consultation and more information about the visa procedure the woman on the phone really seemed to know what she was talking about. This is something I would have naturally expected but when I called at InLingua in Hannover for example they told me different things than what they had on their website – that’s always odd. I can’t say anything about the teachers
  • Help to find accomodation: Not everyone might be in need of help to find a place to stay but especially when you come from another continent it would give me a good feeling to rely on the school to help me a room instead of ending up with obscure private offers. These are the rooms in Schwäbisch Hall for example (click on the slideshow at the top of the page).
  • Easy online booking form

The con

  • The prices: Uff, I had to swallow hard when I first read those numbers. The basic 4-weeks intensive course costs about 1045€ (varying a little depending on which city you choose), 1195€ in the summer months of July and August. And that’s just the course, accomodation will add with additional 300-700€ per month (also varying on the location – bigger cities such as Hamburg or Munich are usually more expensive). I mean, that’s a lot of money – for one month only. Compared to other schools this is really expensive and I am not sure if they can always make up to the expectations connected to such high fees. As anywhere else the experience gained and progress made depends highly on the teachers you end up with, I have read as many recommendations of Goethe as of people saying it was horrible.

So although I only named one con for German class at Goethe Institut it’s a pretty strong one. I encourage you to find reports of people who have taken a course at Goethe in the location you would like to stay. Only that way you can estimate how good the teachers are. Keep in mind, though, that in the end experience is always subjective.

Have you studied at Goethe Institut and are able to give some insights? I’m looking forward to your comments!

The Options

As the economic situation in Venezuela is becoming really grave (I will explain the situation there in another post) Ali and I are looking for ways that make it possible for him to leave as soon as possible. Well, to be precise, we have found and thought about different options in the past, of course, and I would like to highlight those that seem to be the best in our case. This post is only to give an overview – I plan to write about the various options more in-depth in the future.

Marriage
Although marriage always seems to be the first thought when it comes to foreign couples moving together it is definitely not my favoured option. It would enable Ali to stay in Germany and give him the oportunity to work here. But although I can definitely see myself marrying Ali in the future I would like to marry him because the timing feels right – not because laws leave us no other option. This might sound foolish and even selfish but especially for a person like me who has never really been the marriage type of girl it is crucial. Another important reason is that I am still going to university and the financial aspect of marrying. Getting all the necessary documents, fees and plane ticket(s) will cost a lot of money. I am only working part-time and Ali will probably not find a job immediately after moving here while our living expenses would continue. I have saved a small amount of money to cover the marriage itself but I would not know how or if we would make ends meet afterwards. Many people I have gotten to know who are in the same situation as us have the support of their families to bridge the first time after marriage. Sadly, this is not be possible in our case. So marriage was our option for the time after my graduation – that is in 1,5 years. But Ali wants to leave as soon as possible and therefore we are evaluating other options at the moment.

Finding a job
Finding a job – that sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, sadly it is not – at least if you are from outside the EU. Ali has studied informatics in Venezuela and two masters in economics and logistics in Spain. German companies are desperately looking for IT professionals – or so it is said. But Ali has applied for numerous jobs at internationally operating  companies in Germany (which would maybe tolerate his not so perfect German at the beginning) and only a few have bothered to interview him via Skype. I can even understand them a little. I mean who would bother to go through a lot of trouble including communication problems, visa issues and other paperwork when it is so much easier to keep looking for potential candidates from Germany or the EU.

There is the “jobseeker’s visa“, though: “University graduates with a German or other recognised university degree, or a foreign degree comparable to a German degree, are allowed to enter Germany and seek a job once here. They get a jobseeker’s visa for their job search and are allowed to stay in Germany for up to six months to find employment. They need to prove that they have enough money to live on during their time here. While trying to find a job, they may not work at all, because the job-seeking visa does not permit them to work, whether on a self-employed basis or otherwise” (bluecard-eu.de). Sadly, this is no option for us as well because the problem about covering Ali’s living expenses remains the same as if we were getting married. But to anyone who has the money it would greatly improve the chance to be invited for a job interview and therefore being hired, I’m sure of that. Finding a German company willing to give you a chance is the best thing that could happen to anyone looking to stay in Germany and for Ali and me, anyway. You get the chance to work on you German in Germany (which is the only efficient way to learn German if you ask me), earn money and can start settling in – that’s pretty much all you ask anyway, right?

Studying
Studying at a German university even with medium German language skills is though but not impossible. The advantage of studying here is that you keep educating yourself further and gain a certificate that is acknowledged by German companies for sure. Furthermore you keep learning German, study with Germans and therefore make friends and/or get to know people that might be helpful in finding a job later on. You even have the possibility to work while you study although the number of (full) days is limited to 120 per year. As the bigger part of the fees charged by German universities and colleges per semester has been abolished in most federal states, studying in Germany is now cheaper than some years ago. You will still have living expenses, of course. Depending on where in Germany you live and study you can get by with about 500-700 Euro. Many science, IT and engineering programs do not have any restrictions on entry as long as you are able to fulfill the necessary paperwork from abroad and meet general criteria for foreign students. But of course any person who has already invested many years in education in their home country would much rather like work than begin anew.

Language courses
Language courses are only a temporary option, of course. A visa for a language course grants you the possibility to stay in Germany up to two years although the visa will only be granted for a period of 6 months beforehand before you have renew it – at least that is what they told me at Inlingua in Hannover. Their main purpose is for you to improve your German language skills. You are not allowed to work during your stay, though.

Bundesfreiwilligendienst
bluecard-eu.de and bundes-freiwilligendienst.de state that it is possible for citizens from outside the EU to to get to know the life in Germany by serving a voluntary service (“Bundesfreiwilligendienst”, BFD – you gotta love German word chains, right? ;). There is no English version of the official BFD website, though, and I did not find any information regarding foreign volunteers on their website, either. I  have written an e-mail to them to verify if this is a genuine option for people from outside the EU.

As mentioned above I will write about these alternatives more in-depth in the future but I hope this gave you a good overview over the most common options.

This is it.

So this is it. I am seriously beginning  to blog.

For years now I had been looking for a topic that would prove interesting enough to keep writing about over a long span of time. And for years I had been thinking: “There is nothing that interesting in your life, nothing that is worth sharing, nothing that would bear news for too long.”

Well, but just a few days ago I discovered I might have been wrong all this time.
This blog is about my boyfriend Ali and me, Judith, a 23-year old communication management student from Germany. Well, admittedly this does not sound too exciting, does it? What is unsual about us is that we have been in a long-distance relationship for almost 8 years now. Internet has made possible what many of our friends and family members have described with words like crazy, impossible, hopeless, naive or a phase in the past. Well, apparently our relationship has proved to be anything but that.

Ali is from  and lives in Venezuela, a part of his family being Colombian. He will turn 30 this year – a number that has always been our deadline to finally live “together” – as in: at least in the same country. But at the moment it looks like we won’t make it. Just the same continent seems to be difficult enough to achieve. We had to experience ourselves that the German Fachkräftemangel (skilled worker shortage) proclaimed by German politics and media does not mean that it is easy for people from outside the European Union to move to Germany to work.

So this blog is not about our relationship itself but about Ali’s way to Germany. We want to share our experience, our mistakes, advice and tips with people all over the world who might find themselves in the same or a similar situation and of course anyone else who is interested. Cheers!

(Please bare in mind that neither Ali nor me are native English speakers. Of course, we try to write as correctly as possible but the main purpose of this blog is not to prove our proficiency in the English language but to offer useful information about making it to Germany. Thank you :)