Raneem Asasa came to Germany from Syria in 2021 to study for a Master's degree in Water Engineering at h2. She successfully entered the job market in 2023 and works as an administrator for water management basics.

What was your career path from your first day of study in Germany to your professional life?

I completed my bachelor's degree in civil engineering in Damascus. Then I decided to come to Germany to do my Master's degree. I started studying Water Engineering at Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences in April 2021. It was very exciting. But I was also very scared because it was a new country and a new language. I studied in English, but I also needed German for everyday life and work. That's why I learned German alongside my studies. I attended lectures for two semesters. Then I took a semester off to continue learning German. After that, I started my internship at the Ministry of Science, Energy, Climate Protection and the Environment (MWU) in Saxony-Anhalt. I got to know a lot of contacts there and stayed for about seven months. During my internship, I got to know employees of the Saxony-Anhalt State Office for Flood Protection and Water Management (LHW). One of them later became the supervisor of my Master's thesis. We decided to do my Master's thesis in collaboration with the MWU and the LHW. I then agreed the topic with my programme director, Prof. Dr. Ing. Bernd Ettmer, as practical relevance is very important at a university of applied sciences. When I completed my Master's degree, a contact at LHW sent me a job advertisement. I applied, they invited me for an interview and yes, I'm now working there.

I was lucky. Getting to know the contacts was the most important thing. If I hadn't been at MWU, I would never have made the contacts. I would never know that there was the possibility that I could work there. My leading director at MWU really made sure that I got to know a lot of people.

What do you currently do and what are your tasks on the job?

I am now Administrator for Water Management Principles. My focus is on implementing the Flood Risk Management Directive. What does that mean? This is the preliminary flood risk assessment. I also create and update flood risk and hazard maps. Other tasks include updating the flood risk management plan, evaluating and designing water-suitable facilities and drawing up technical documents for regional planning for flood protection and river basins.

To what extent have your studies prepared you for your current tasks? In other words, how much of what you learned during your studies is relevant for your current job?

Everything to do with hydraulic engineering is important for my current job. I need a large part of my studies most of the time. In particular, we had lectures that gave an overview of the implementation of the European Floods Directive in Saxony-Anhalt, from the preliminary flood risk assessment to the risk management plan. We talked about previous flood events in Saxony-Anhalt, as well as presenting examples of complex flood management in Saxony-Anhalt. During our studies, we also got to know the computer software GIS (Geoinformation System), which I use every day in my work, for example.

What do you find special about starting a career in the public sector?

When I was at MWU, many people said: "Try to work in the public sector, not in industry." I didn't understand why. They talked about "job security" and "if you work in the public sector, you'll always have work". I thought "okay, good to know, but no chance." Getting this job was a big challenge. Yes, it was a challenge. I am now the only foreigner in our office in Halle.

Why did you choose this employer?

To be honest: I didn't opt for the MWU. That wasn't my plan. My plan was "the small engineering office". “Ministry” sounded like politics and theory to me - so not practice-oriented. But I received an email from the university's Career Center saying that MWU needed interns. I thought, "okay, I'll apply, but I won't be accepted. My German isn't that good." I thought I would give it a try anyway. And then I was invited to an interview. I met my future supervisor there and I had the feeling that I could really learn something from this person. I decided to do the internship - and they gave me the practice-oriented tasks!

What expectations did you have about starting your career in Germany and what was it actually like?

My expectations were that it would be very difficult to find a job. I know that Germany needs people to work here. That's why I came to Germany: because I know the labor market needs people and I want to work. But I thought it would take time to find a job. But everything worked out pretty quickly. Yes, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it was better than I expected.

What Career Center services did you use and what did you think of them?

I took part in a few workshops, e.g. "Get Connected" and I learned how to convince in an interview and what to prepare, how to write a CV and a cover letter. Yes, and I always got support from you [the Career Center]. Yes, really. So, you really supported me.

I also visited Stepstone, Indeed and similar websites, but you don't find that much there. And people don't answer. But the Career Center has the right ways to find something in Germany. Yes, that was very helpful for me.

What tips/recommendations would you give international students with a view to professional life?

Networking and mastering the language. Get to know lots of contacts for your network. That's the most important thing.

Do you have any recommendations on where to make contacts from your point of view?

I don't know exactly, but there are company fairs. Maybe you can visit them. I didn't visit them because I didn't need to. But if I hadn't found a job, I could have met people from different companies there. You have to make contacts and it all starts at university: So also contacts with professors. That is important. Professors have contacts. My programme director, Prof. Dr. Ing. Bernd Ettmer, has always supported me! He has a big network, lots of experience and always gave me feedback on my plans.

What are your career plans for the future?

I don't have a real plan yet, but I want to stay in Germany as long as it works out, as long as I am working and I am happy.
The original interview was conducted by Ulrike Marquardt on 11.11.2023 in German. (Translation to English by Ulrike Marquardt).

Photo: Andrea Arnus, Montage Sebastian Möser.