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From Culture Shock and Integration

33 years ago Nguyen van Duc studied at TH Karl-Marx-Stadt – Today he is supporting his fellow countrymen in developing their own start-ups and is engaged on the voluntary basis

  • Nguyen van Duc came in 1981 to study in Karl-Marx-Stadt - in 2000 he set up a company in Chemnitz. Photo: Caroline Staude

His office at Reichsstraße in Chemnitz is not large, but full of files and documents. At the desk, behind a large monitor sits Nguyen van Duc and processes payroll records and acconting of his customers. “I advise my compatriots who want to start their own business, but also migrants that come for start-ups, for example, from India or Turkey.”

When he came to Karl-Marx-Stadt in 1981, he did not know that he would remain in Germany forever and would find a family here. “I remember it very well: on September 13, 1981 I came up with a total of 73 students from Hanoi to the GDR," says Nguyen van Duc. He was delegated by the previous government to study in Karl-Marx-Stadt. His arrival was a bit of an adventure: “I flew from Hanoi to Berlin, and from there we took the bus to Zwickau.” But for van Duc and two other students there was no more room on the bus. “That´s why three of us, with broken German skills, went by train to Karl-Marx-Stadt and were picked up by a professor of the university at the train station.”

What followed was a preparation year. “I had intensive German courses and fundamentals for Physics and Mathematics.” Van Duc lived in a room at Thüringer Weg together with an other student. “After the year we were allocated to the study programs and I ended up studying Mechanical Engineering.” He studied for four and a half years, and then still followed a half year course in Applied Computer Science. “Because of my good final grade and a very specific field of studies, I was still allowed to stay and work in Germany.” After graduating, van Duc has been working for two years at TH Karl-Marx-Stadt, and has afterwards found a job at the DKK Scharfenstein. There he took care of computer equipment until 1999. Since 2000 he is self-employed. Meanwhile, Nguyen van Duc is engaged on the voluntary basis at Foreigner´s Advisory Council in Chemnitz and is a chairman of “Verein vietnamesischer Landsleute Ha Nam Ninh in der BRD e.V.”.

Today van Duc is fully integrated, although he first had fear to get in contact with German culture. “Shortly after our arrival we took part in harvesting. After the apple harvest we were all dirty. When we got back to our accomodation, suddenly everyone began to take off their clothes, both men and women, and went to shower together. Today I laugh about it, but at that moment I was shocked.”

As a 51-year old father of two daughters, van Duc will never forget his time at TH Karl-Marx-Stadt. “I had a great time and a lot of fun. However, I would like to have more contact with all former students who came together with me at that time to Chemnitz.” The last meeting in 2012 with 40 former students took place in Berlin. He is still in touch with some of them. “One of the former students is now enrolled into a higher position in the Ministry of Industry in Vietnam.”

(Author: Caroline Staude, Translation: Nataliia Boiko)

Katharina Thehos
02.06.2014

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