First Integration

The new AMIF-Project “Ankommen in Deutschland” – What is planned and what is next for the webportal “Mein Weg nach Deutschland”?

© Goethe-Institut

Anyone wanting to live and work in Germany can find helpful information and guidance on the website “Mein Weg nach Deutschland”. The new “Ankommen in Deutschland” project is intended to make sure that even more immigrants are able to use the service.

What kind of music is popular in Germany? Which major companies have subsidiaries in Bavaria? What should I look out for when I’m applying for a job with a German employer? Esther Patrocinio Sánchez encountered questions like this before starting her work placement in Germany in 2010. Finding answers turned out to be difficult at first, she remembers: “I had to gather the information together from different websites, and with many of the sources I wasn’t certain how credible the information was.”

Exercises, information, guidance

To make arriving in Germany easier for immigrants like Esther Patrocinio Sánchez, the Goethe-Institut created the online portal “Mein Weg nach Deutschland” in 2012, and it has been growing ever since. The idea is that people who have already learnt some German in their home country should be able to use this site to consolidate and develop their skills independently before starting the integration course. The portal is also intended to provide information about life in Germany, as well as guidance and support services.

To begin with, the service’s main target group was citizens of non-member states who had already passed the A1 exam in their home country in order to qualify for the visa and wanted to use the time for learning things like handling media and orientation in Germany whilst they waited for the integration course to start. But it quickly became clear that the website is also very popular for reasons other than that: it’s used by immigrants who are already attending or have completed the integration course. And by qualified professionals entering the country with good German skills – like Esther Patrocinio Sánchez. Target audiences in this category would also like to find out how to gain a foothold on the job market in Germany, so as a result the portal has been updated to provide information such as how to achieve recognition for educational and professional qualifications.

Daily living and entering a profession in Germany

In July 2019 we started a further three-year project phase in which the idea is to tailor the website even more closely to the needs of target audiences. The main target group in future will still be recent arrivals from non-member states. But whilst all immigrants will have continued access to support with day-to-day issues, as well as that there will be increased support for all aspects of vocational training, finding a job and starting work. Project leader Julia Wecker explains: “We want to provide support for people who are deciding whether to come to Germany to live and work, or have already made the decision, and help them find their bearings and start work here. These are core integration themes that are important for everyone – regardless of whether people have come here for family reasons or to seek employment.”

There are plans for interactive language games covering all aspects of starting work. Users are also encouraged to reflect on all the highs and lows of their time in Germany through blogs as well as competitions involving film or written work, and share this information with other immigrants. Furthermore users have the opportunity to offer feedback on the website. “We take the feedback very seriously and try to implement as much as we possibly can in way that brings maximum benefit for everyone,” promises Julia Wecker, who of course also has to take into consideration the project goals and the stipulations of the funding provider. The project is part-financed by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF).

Mobile, barrier-free, user-friendly

The aim in future is to make “Mein Weg nach Deutschland” even more readily accessible to immigrants with diverse needs: people wanting to use the portal via their smartphone should have access to the full range of services. We are in the process of creating a mobile version of the site. Anyone without their own internet connection, or who is not a confident user, will be able to use the service in libraries and other public institutions in future. To achieve this, around 50 information points are to be located throughout rural areas of Germany where immigrants cannot find as many support services. People who have been prevented from using the portal due to a physical disability will now be able to use a barrier-free version in German and English. And if anyone still has questions about using the site, redirection to the online guide provided by Youth Migration Services will now be even faster.

Right back when the “Mein Weg nach Deutschland” site was still at concept stage, the Goethe-Institut relied on cooperation with experienced social workers specialising in migration. The “Getting help” section lists integration course providers and immigration authorities, as well as presenting the Youth Migration Service (Jugendmigrationsdienste; JMD) and Migration Advice for Adult Immigrants (Migrationserstberatungen; MEB). Users can find out how the online advisory service jmd4you works, and much more besides. In future, migration advice for individuals is to be integrated far more effectively into the services offered by the site. Özcan Ülger, project leader of the JMD online advisory service, explains: “When users of “Mein Weg nach Deutschland” read an article about the health or education system in Germany for example, this gives rise to questions: ‘Where do I go if I have back pain?’ ‘What’s the best school for my daughter?’ Instead of taking them to another site via a link, we’d like to give you the opportunity to use a contact form and enter your questions directly through this website.”

Wedding-ready in Germany

Esther Patrocinio Sánchez enjoyed her work experience in Munich so much that she still lives in Germany today. She also likes using the “Mein Weg nach Deutschland” portal now. “They don’t have employer references in Spain, and a photo on your CV is an absolute no-no. How else was I supposed to have known that things are completely different in Germany?” she asks. When she first came to Germany, she didn’t know what an EC card was. And she had no idea how to find accommodation in Munich. Even today, nine years after she first arrived in Germany, Esther Patrocinio Sánchez still uses the portal regularly. “When I was invited to a German wedding recently for the first time, I played a game related to the theme on ‘Mein Weg nach Deutschland’ beforehand. That helped me to feel far more confident at the party.”

© Goethe-Institut

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