Chronicles of a German-Born African - Episode 3

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Hi there, I’m Nesa. If you haven’t read the previous episodes, I advise you to stop reading. Go back, read them, and then come back. Don’t worry; I’ll be right here waiting for you. And if you’ve already read the previous episodes, buckle up, and let’s continue our journey.

I would not call myself a DADA BEE (a Ghanaian colloquialism). It usually has a bad connotation: someone who is arrogant due to coming from a rich home. However, I can say I came from an economically secure family. With a doctor as a father and a businesswoman as a mother, there was always bread on the table and clothes on my back. I never had to fend for myself since everything was always provided for.

My dad had a philosophy for all his children: if you lived with him until you got married, he would take care of you. But if you chose to leave his house before that, you would have to learn to take care of yourself.

Honestly, I never understood this principle. Over time, I went through stages of understanding it, similar to the stages of grief. Initially, I misunderstood it, then hated it when I was alone and struggling, befriended it when I started earning money, and now, as a mother, I understand it. Would I do the same for my children? A hundred percent not. But will I instill that discipline in them? Absolutely, without a doubt.

I came to Germany to study, but I also had to pay for my daily upkeep, rent, and school fees. I had a blocked account—a bank account required by German authorities as proof of sufficient financial means to receive a visa. My dad helped with part of the blocked account, and my aunty and a family friend loaned me money as well. My plan was to save the money from the blocked account, which I received in small monthly chunks, to repay them. So, I needed a job.

After settling down, registering, getting an apartment, finding my feet in my programme, and understanding my schedule, my first priority was to find a job quickly. A friend informed me about an agency he was working with—a cleaning company where you could register and receive offers to clean people’s homes. After ensuring it was authentic, I signed up and started working. Here are a few lessons I learnt from that era of my life.

Lesson One: You Are Stronger Than You Think

Combining studies, work, and settling in a new country was an overwhelming experience, but it taught me that I was stronger than I ever imagined. Growing up sheltered, this was far from what I was used to. The comfort and predictability of my previous life were replaced with uncertainty and challenge. How could I possibly manage it all? But I did. My days started early with classes, and after class, I would rush to catch the train.

Every workday involved a grueling commute. I had to take the train for an hour and 45 minutes each way, as my job was in a different city. The long rides were exhausting, often spent standing in crowded carriages or sitting in silence, watching the scenery blur by. The train rides alone consumed over three hours of my day, just in transportation. Each client was different; sometimes I met lovely people, and other times I encountered those who treated me with contempt. The physical labour of cleaning homes, coupled with the mental strain of studying and adjusting to a new culture, tested my limits daily. There were moments of sheer exhaustion when I questioned if I could continue. But each day, I pushed through. The experience was a stark contrast to my previously sheltered life, but it revealed a resilience and strength within me that I hadn’t known existed.

Every challenge, from the demanding school schedules to the long commutes and late-night study sessions at the library, was a lesson in perseverance. It was through these trials that I discovered my true capacity for endurance and adaptability. I realised that I was far stronger and more capable than I had ever believed. This period of my life, though incredibly tough, was a powerful testament to the strength we all possess when we are pushed beyond our comfort zones.

Lesson Two: Stay Focused

It’s easy to see the money you get from menial jobs and think you’re making a lot, especially if you’re still mentally converting euros to your local currency—in my case, Ghana cedis. Every two weeks, when payday arrived, I would eagerly check my account, convert the euros to cedis in my mind, and think, “Oh wow, that’s a lot!” The numbers looked impressive when viewed through the lens of my home country’s currency. But then reality would set in as I remembered I was living and spending the money in Germany, not Ghana.

The small influx of money from these jobs felt substantial, but it was a far cry from what I needed to truly thrive. I saw a few people who were seduced by this illusion and decided to quit school because of how much they were earning from menial jobs at the time. They lost sight of the bigger picture, swayed by the immediate, yet fleeting, financial gain.

Trust me, if you choose the right course that focuses on closing the labour gap, study hard, and excel in both your studies and job, you will earn far more than what menial jobs offer. It’s important not to be swayed by the temporary satisfaction of small earnings. Keep your eyes on the end goal, the finish line, which is to secure a reputable job that pays your worth or even to start your own company. The sky is not the limit; it is just your starting point. By maintaining your focus on your studies and professional growth, you are investing in a future where your potential earnings and opportunities are limitless.

Lesson Three: Learn German

One of my biggest regrets to this day is not continuing my German course to C2 level. With so much on my plate, something had to give, and unfortunately, I decided to stop learning German after reaching the level needed to work. Even though I speak German, I still feel insecure at times when speaking with my native German colleagues in the office. Those moments of hesitation, where I struggle to find the right words, remind me of the importance of mastering the language.

Learning German well is crucial. If you want to be in the boardrooms, to have opportunities that are not readily available to the masses, mastering the language is essential. I remember the frustration of not being able to fully express myself in meetings or casual conversations, feeling like an outsider despite being part of the team.

I cannot stress enough the importance of learning German if you plan to reside here. Without a strong command of the language, navigating professional and social landscapes becomes significantly harder. Yes, nothing is impossible; without German, you can still succeed and excel in Germany if you make the right decisions. However, being fluent in the language propels your success and serves as a catalyst for your excellence.

NB: I have decided to continue with my German lessons. Wish me luck!

Practical Advice on Menial Jobs

To ensure your safety and fair compensation for your hard work, I suggest finding well-established and trustworthy agencies. These agencies can help guarantee that you receive fair payment and that the work environment is safe.

For example, I worked with Helpling, an agency I still recommend today. Helpling required me to provide a police report showing I had no criminal record, my identification documents, and my student permit, which allowed me to work legally. This thorough vetting process helped ensure my safety and legitimacy as a worker.

Similarly, Helpling also required their clients to provide documentation, ensuring that the homes I worked in were safe and secure. This dual-verification process protected both the workers and the clients, creating a trustworthy environment for everyone involved. By choosing an established agency, you can focus on your work with the peace of mind that your safety and compensation are being handled properly.

Conclusion

Remember, every challenge you face is an opportunity to grow and redefine your path. Embrace the uncertainty, stay focused on your goals, and never stop learning. Whether you're starting afresh in a new country or striving to advance in your career, know that with determination and the right mindset, you can achieve great things. Your journey is unique, and the possibilities are endless. Keep pushing forward, and trust that the best is yet to come.

BY LOVE, NESA