HAVE YOU MET EZINNE UZOIJE?
Could you please introduce yourself briefly?
My name is Ezinne Uzoije, I am Nigerian and a participant of the 10th AFRIKA KOMMT! cohort. In my time as a professional in Nigeria, I took on different roles in Digital Marketing, Enterprise Development, Startup Incubation and Product Management. I plan to continue in that direction here in the Product Management Unit of SAP.
In three words, describe your first three months in Germany.
I would say “learning journey”, even if this is a phrase and not a word, then “home” and “fresh beginning”.
You know what it’s like: You come from another country, and you are thinking, “When will I see the things I am used to?” It is not that the things I see here are bad, but they are different. So, I had to learn – I had to understand, “Okay, this is what this or that means!”
So, it was a learning journey!
And then it felt like home after a while. After a few days the reality that we are living in Bonn began to sink in and I could say, “Oh, I live in Bonn, Bonn is home”.
So it was a fresh beginning as well.
I am also learning a lot how different people can be, and I really appreciate that turn. I would also like to mention that the International Management Training sessions helped me with understanding things. I had a lot of questions. But when things are explained properly, then you gain a deeper appreciation of the culture and the people.
What surprised you the most?
When the Christmas market was set up, it did not occur to me that this was just for Christmas.
I thought it would be constant because, back in Nigeria, open-air markets are constant. I could not imagine that this was not a thing. Then it closed after Christmas and I missed it so much and I wondered, “How can you live without it?!”
How did you spend your free time in Bonn?
I spent it discovering a few places. I went to the Drachenfels at Königswinter and to the Haus der Geschichte. Another highlight for me was a String Event at Beethoven Haus.
I was able to visit these places because I made a list of places to go to and also spontaneously joined other fellows to discover new places. But there really was not so much extra time. Therefore, there are things I should have done but didn’t get to do.
From your perspective, which aspects did you initially find strange about life in Germany or even improvable?
When I came in it was a bit odd that there was so much walking to be done, especially as a public transport user. Now I totally enjoy it because at least I keep fit. But it took a while to get used to it.
I appreciate how organized the transport system is, but initially I was frankly confused, asking “Why do I have to wait till a certain time for one bus to come pick me up?” Because back at home there are other options. Apart from apps like Uber etc., there are small tricycles that take you to anywhere at any time. So, you really do not have to plan or have long waiting times.
How do you benefit from the contact to the other fellows?
I’ve learnt more about other African countries.
Africa is a very big continent, which means that some people live all their life without meeting people from other countries. The fellowship helped me meet people from different countries. We had many sessions together in which we explored certain challenges of Africa, and we found out that often we have similar challenges, amidst our differences.
I’ve also enjoyed interacting with other fellows. Everyone has had diverse experiences and brings unique perspectives to discussions. This makes it really interesting, and I am just grateful that I met such brilliant people.
(l. to r.: Ezinne U., Samiiha N., Itumeleng D.)
What was the most important aspect about learning German for you?
In my first few days in Germany, a man approached me and appeared to be asking for directions around my street. I couldn’t really comprehend all he said nor was I able to direct him. It hit me that I couldn’t even give basic directions in the language, and I was determined to put in more effort to learn German so that I can interact more with others.
What I find really interesting is how many people, especially Germans, would openly say that the language is not very easy to learn as an adult or that it could take up to three years to learn. This has, however, not discouraged me.
How did you practice German outside class?
I joined XING, which is a popular business network site in Germany, in order to interact with more Germans. Additionally, I ensured to surround myself with more of the language. I changed the language on my phone to German and started watching movies with subtitles in German. A helpful recommendation, which I got from the Goethe institute instructors was to not translate everything. That was my attitude at first, but there are just too many things in which the context is lost in translation.
In future I look forward to perhaps joining a club to interact with more Germans in the language. I am open to anything – maybe a dance club, a gymnastic club or a reading club…
What is making you nervous right at the start of the company phase?
Initially, I was concerned about how communication works in German companies because communication can be different in different cultures. To communicate certain things, I got wondering “Do I just say this out loud or do I simply imply it?” However, I realized one needs to say it as it is. In a polite way, of course, but spelling things out and not merely implying it is more appreciated.
The IMT sessions were very beneficial in addressing this concern because they were an avenue for us to throw out our concerns and questions, and have some Instructors share insights on how to manage certain things.
What do you look forward to contributing to your company?
I will be contributing my skill set and insights from previous experiences, which I believe to be very valuable for the company. Besides that, I am also looking forward to crafting projects or initiatives that can be beneficial for the company.
This interview was conducted by Matthias Ogiermann. Matthias was an intern in the AFRIKA KOMMT! programme from October 2021 to March 2022. He studied Geography and Mathematics in Münster, focusing on Development Geography and International Cooperation.
He particularly enjoyed being an intern in the programme since it allowed him to meet many brilliant young leaders and visionaries from Africa and exchange with them about their ideas for sustainable development in both Europe and Africa. When not interning, he is enthusiastic about listening to podcasts and hiking – as a Geographer self-evidently without map and without getting lost.