From Damascus to Stuttgart


Firas Hawasli is doing an apprenticeship at ista in Stuttgart to become an industrial clerk. What is perfectly normal for many of his peers was almost inconceivable for the twenty-two-year-old just a few months ago. For Firas comes from Syria: six years ago, he had to leave Damascus, his home city, because of the civil war.

Firas Hawasli – trainee at ista
Inquisitive: Firas Hawasli (left) talking about ista products with Alexander Nossek, technical director in Stuttgart.

After a long odyssey he arrived in Stuttgart in the summer of 2015. All he wanted was to finally get back on his feet, find a job and be allowed to stay. To achieve this, Firas has gone all out to learn German and to get to know his new homeland as well as possible. At the end of 2017, things finally starting falling into place: after a placement, Firas Hawasli was given an apprenticeship at the Stuttgart branch of ista. There he is being looked after by Andrea Warth, who is responsible for the apprentices at the branch: “We are delighted to have Mr Hawasli in our team here at ista. He is a very hard-working, talented and highly motivated employee. We are giving him support as far as we can, not only in educational and professional matters but also in his private life. I would also like to thank my colleagues at the Stuttgart branch for their help.” Together with Andrea Warth, we met Firas at his workplace. In the interview with INSIDEista, he talks about the differences between Syria and Germany, his homesickness for Syria where his parents and siblings still live, the uncertainty surrounding his residency status and his great personal goal to successfully complete his apprenticeship at ista and later work for the international energy service provider.

Mr Hawasli, what is life like for you in Germany?

It is difficult to relax. Nearly every week there is a new decision in Germany on the right of asylum. So that often makes me feel insecure. I can’t plan my future. During the three-year apprenticeship, my status as a refugee and my residence permit are guaranteed, but what comes after that? I don’t know. Nevertheless, the apprenticeship at ista motivates me to develop myself. Getting to know the German culture is particularly challenging – the food and social interaction are different. For example, Germans are very direct. In Syria criticism is voiced in a round-about way. And the regulated processes and structures are also new to me. In Syria life is less structured.

Do you miss Damascus?

Of course I do. And especially my parents and four siblings who still live there. We talk together several times a week but I am very worried for them. The war is still raging in Syria. When my parents’ house was destroyed by an aerial bomb at Christmas, ista helped immediately. I am grateful for that.

Were you frightened of the war?

It is not my war. I didn’t want to fight. However, as there is military conscription in Syria, I would have had to fight. That’s why I had to flee. I got to Turkey via Irak. From there we set out in a small boat – that capsized. With no idea at all where we were, we swam for seven hours before reaching shore. Of the 60 in the boat, only 26 refugees made it. I was totally exhausted. But there was no time to rest. We ran straight on. I was stopped and held in Hungary for some time before finally reaching Chemnitz and then Stuttgart. It took another six months before I got my papers. During that time I started to learn German on YouTube so I could make friends faster and get a job.

ista trainee Firas Hawasli
Andreas Schmid (left), technical administrator in Stuttgart, together with Firas Hawasli.

How did you land up at ista?

At the Apprentice Speed Dating organised by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce. I met ista there and was invited to a work trial. This introductory training must have gone really well because they offered me a six-week placement. And now I’m doing an apprenticeship as an industrial clerk. ista has given me a new home.

What are your plans for the future?

First of all, I want to successfully complete my apprenticeship. And then I want to continue working on my career. My aim is to work for ista in Dubai. But before that I would like to fulfil a dream and visit my family. We haven’t seen each other for six years.