“I have a home all over the world”

The 23-year-old Lebanese Hala Fayad came to Cologne from Morocco for a German language course, attended the Studienkolleg in Leipzig, and was then accepted to study psychology in Mannheim. In her myUniMA story, she tells us why she chose this particular program of study, what she likes most about the city and what plans she has for the future.

How did your parents react when you told them that you wanted to study abroad?

My parents are used to it. I was born in Ansar, Lebanon, as the youngest of four children and later my family and I moved to Casablanca in Morocco. My older siblings also study abroad: my sister in Spain and my brothers in France and Lebanon. Many of my friends study abroad, for example in England and Canada. But I preferred to go to a country that is a bit more exceptional and so I decided to go to Germany.

Mannheim is your third destination in Germany. How did this happen?

After finishing school I wanted to learn the German language first and so I spent six months in Cologne, where I attended a private language school. Since my qualification was not sufficient to be admitted to university in Germany, I had to attend the Studienkolleg in Leipzig first. Afterwards, I submitted applications for three different programs of study to many different universities in Germany: for molecular biology, molecular medicine, and psychology At the University of Mannheim, I was admitted to the bachelor's program in Psychology. I then researched on the Internet what the city of Mannheim has to offer and found out that the university does very well in international rankings.

Why did you decide to study psychology?

At school, I always had the best grades in biology and chemistry and my interest in medicine was aroused by a doctor series that I watched on television. During my time in Leipzig, I did voluntary work in a retirement home. I talked to people, listened to them and went for walks with them. I realized that I am good at listening to other people and that I enjoy helping others. That is why I chose to study psychology. In my shared apartment, I am also the first point of contact for my roommates when they have problems. They know that they can talk to me about anything.

How did you feel when you arrived in Germany? And did that experience make it easier for you to settle in Mannheim?

The first weeks in Cologne were a difficult time for me. Sometimes, I was so desperate that I thought I couldn't handle it. I was all alone, without any friends in a foreign country where I hardly knew the language. But then everything improved. I made friends and learned to find my way around the city. This experience, of course, also helped me to find my way around Mannheim more quickly and more easily. I had become much more independent in the meantime. At the beginning of my studies, however, it was difficult for me to follow the German lectures. Fortunately, the University of Mannheim is very well equipped in terms of technology. The teachers provide audio and video recordings of the lectures so that I could listen to them again at home at reduced speed. This made it possible for me to still get very good grades, and now I can even keep up with the normal pace.

What do you particularly like about the city of Mannheim and the university?

What I like most about Mannheim is the fact that the university, the shopping facilities, and also my apartment are located right in the city center, so that I have to walk only short distances. Furthermore, the people are very friendly and open towards international students. It's a bit of a pity that there is no sea like in my hometown, but at least, I can go to the two rivers.

One thing that I particularly like about the University of Mannheim is the fact that everything is well organized and that students get help with all the questions they might have. The university offers everything you need: not only very good programs of study, but also great leisure and sports activities. For example, I go boxing three times a week. Thanks to the fact that the University of Mannheim accepts a great number of students from various countries, I have made friends with students from many different cultures. As my friends invite me to visit them in their home countries, I have a home all over the world. Next time I will invite my friends to Morocco.

Do you know what you want to do after you finish your bachelor’s program?

After completing my bachelor's degree, I would like to apply for a master's program either in Germany, or in Italy or England. Provided that I am accepted onto the program in Mannheim, I would also like to stay here. Later, I would like to work in clinical psychology, first in Germany, but then I would like to work in other countries, too.

Text: Anna-Lena Kiewiet / February 2020