Ali Ali fled from Syria at the age of 19 and found a new home with thyssenkrupp
The civil war in Syria has led to the biggest refugee crisis in the last 30 years: Roughly 11.6 million Syrians were on the move in 2015, and at least five million people fled their homeland. Ali Ali was one of them. He came to Germany in 2015 and now, five years later, he has successfully completed an apprenticeship with thyssenkrupp Materials Services.
Ali Ali’s story reflects that of millions of refugees. At the age of 19 the business management student and his girlfriend decided to leave his family and his homeland. For young men like Ali in particular, life in Syria had become too dangerous. The journey first took him and his girlfriend to Turkey, and from there across the Mediterranean on a badly overcrowded boat to Greece. After an odyssey lasting several months and taking them through Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary and Austria – most of it on foot and most of it illegal and highly risky – the young couple from Aleppo finally arrived in Germany.
Ali took matters into his own hands
Once in Germany, Ali was not allowed to work or even attend language courses until he was officially recognized as an “asylum seeker”. So he took matters into his own hands. “I decided I was going to teach myself German. My girlfriend and I got some books and started learning German,” says Ali. “I tried to get by with English at first, but that didn’t work out too well. Maybe it’s because my English is so bad,” he smiles. Once he started to pick up German things went better – so much in fact that when he finally got to take a test to determine his language level he was able to skip an entire year. “My language skills were a huge help in getting integrated in society,” says Ali, who now speaks excellent German.
“My father always said: ‘If you ever go abroad, two things are important: education and language’. When you’re young, you don’t believe your parents,” he laughs. “But I’ve discovered that they were right.”
Internship at thyssenkrupp Infrastructure
While he was still attending his first language classes, Ali applied for an internship at thyssenkrupp in Essen – and was immediately accepted. On February 1, 2017 Ali started in the export department at thyssenkrupp Infrastructure. It was another turning point in the life of the young Syrian. “As an intern in my first job in Germany, at the time I felt I couldn’t do all that much,” Ali remembers. But he quickly found his feet. “thyssenkrupp and all my colleagues were always there to help. They really took care of me,” he says.
Apprenticeship at thyssenkrupp Materials Services
Ali continued to receive plenty of support as his career in Germany progressed. While he was still doing his internship, Ali inquired with the HR department about the possibility of an apprenticeship at thyssenkrupp. A month later he was invited to an interview and was offered a place as an apprentice wholesale and foreign trade clerk at thyssenkrupp Materials Services.
“My apprenticeship was tough to start with. Having to go back to school and learn all the business management terminology wasn’t easy,” Ali admits looking back. But he had overcome far worse hardships, so he knuckled down – and soon started to enjoy success. “As an apprentice you switch departments every three months, each time with an assessment of your performance. Almost all my assessments were great.”
Above all Ali remembers the support he got from the HR department: “Their support always helped me stay strong.”
Refugee, apprentice, Bayern fan!
Where Ali came from was never a problem at thyssenkrupp. But living and working in the Ruhr region, his favorite soccer team was more of a sticking point. “There are a few of us who meet up to play soccer after work. Even when I was still in Syria I was a fan of Bayern Munich. So I had to put up with a few comments when I turned up in my Bayern shirt,” he chuckles. “But joking apart, thyssenkrupp is a really open-minded company. They’ve done a lot for me and I owe them a great deal. thyssenkrupp has given me and other refugees the chance to show what we can do. And for that I’m really grateful.”
Having successfully completed his apprenticeship, Ali started in the IT department of thyssenkrupp Materials Services in September 2020. Another new area, another new challenge. But Ali is confident he will manage. After all, he knows a thing or two about challenges.