Interview with African engineer Huguette Mawa I love the weekly market

I love living in Aachen’s Frankenberger Quarter, but getting here was a long journey – both literally and metaphorically.

Huguette Mawa

  • born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, pop. 1.3 million
  • Aachen University of Applied Sciences´ graduand
  • Electrical Engineer at Aachen City Council

After my school-leaving exams in Cameroon I was sure I wanted to study electrical engineering, and the best career prospects were via an overseas degree course. So I learnt German at the Goethe Institute and sent a large number of applications off the German universities. In 1998, after a two-year wait, I finally got my hands on a visa to go to Leipzig.

I’d never been abroad before and, once here, when I arrived at the university car park for the first time I thought it was a car dealership! I’d never dreamt students could afford cars that new. Of course that wasn’t the only difference – people here are a lot more laid-back and reserved than back home in Africa.

In Leipzig I improved my language skills and switched courses to Dresden. Even though I did part-time jobs throughout Germany during college holidays the money simply wasn’t enough to survive on, so I decided to move to western Germany because the work situation is so much better there. In the end I was accepted by Aachen University of Applied Sciences. I worked so hard I hardly saw much of the city at all. One thing that really hit me was how enthusiastic everyone in Aachen is – men women and children alike – about Alemannia Aachen FC. One of my many occasional jobs involved packing “Printen” – those famous Aachen gingerbread cookies – and I also once worked in the city’s premier hotel.

My Aachen highlights:

  • The Market Square in summertime
  • The view over the city from Lousberg Hill
  • The weekly market in the Frankenberger Quarter

After graduating, the statutory regulations at the time made it really difficult to get a full-time job. While studying, I used to really enjoy working part-time for the Facilities Management department at Aachen City Council, and when – after a great many unsuccessful applications – they offered me, first, a freelance contract and then a temporary contract of employment I was over the moon.

I experience the city very intensively

Nowadays I experience Aachen a lot more intensely than in my student days – I love strolling across the Market Square and going shopping in the weekly market – and I often recognise typical German features about myself such as taking coffee, going for walks, enjoying peace and quiet and setting a lot of store by punctuality. Even so, I’m equally rooted in my home country, I like a laugh and love dressing up “all African” and maybe cooking African food for friends (happily, Aachen has a few African grocery stores too).

Looking back, I don’t regret doing what I did 10 years ago. In all the problems I experienced there were people by my side who helped me. Today, I feel right at home in “my” Frankenberger Quarter – the residential district where people hang loose and dare to be different. And sometimes I find myself looking up the Alemannia results on Teletext – and I’m not even that interested in soccer!

Post-graduate employment

  • For people from the European Economic Area, with the exception of the new EU accession countries in eastern Europe, there are no restrictions to working in Germany.
  • For citizens of new EU accession countries in eastern Europe, work permits may be applied for at the German Labour Agency (Agentur für Arbeit). After five years of legal residence in Germany an open-ended residence permit may be issued and, with it, an unrestricted work permit.
  • Citizens of other countries are permitted to stay on in Germany for up to one year after passing their exams for purposes of finding work, subject to the funding of their stay being guaranteed by third parties. During this period, 180 half-days or 90 whole days may be worked. As soon as a job offer is made, the Labour Agency and the Foreign Residents Department will check whether approval may be given in the specific instance in question (is the remuneration appropriate, and is this a job related to the area of study?). After three years’ work an “any employer” work permit may be issued.
  • The service office of the Foreign Residents Department in the Super C complex will be happy to advise on all residence matters.

Want more?

External links

Foreign Residents DepartmentService office for students in the Super C complex (German only)