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Dual study programme in business informatics: Business administration and informatics

Siham Abulzahab (35) is studying “Business Informatics – Sales & Consulting” with a high level of practical relevance at Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) in Mannheim. The industry partner is the software group SAP SE.

A young man is working on a laptop.

German version

In her home city of Damascus, Siham Abulzahab had already founded a translation company. “I would have liked to continue with it, but the current situation did not allow that. We were subjected to bombing and often had no power or no internet for hours,” she says. She first moved to Egypt, where she met and married her husband. However, it became too dangerous there too in 2013 because of political unrest.

A study programme for refugees

A portrait foto of Siham A. A portrait foto of Siham A.

Siham Abulzahab

Therefore, her husband fled to Germany and Siham Abulzahab followed him as a family reunion. That was six years ago. “We thought that it was time to start a family in peace, and we had our son, who is now three years old. After a year of parenthood, I wanted to learn something again.” In Syria, she had already completed a training programme in the field of medicine. “Because I already had professional experience in the area of business management and was a certified project manager, I wanted to move towards business instead,” she says. She initially planned to study business administration at the University of Mannheim, but there was an obstacle: “I was already over 30 at the time. That meant that I would not have received BAföG.”

A solution emerged from a conversation with a friend, who works for SAP. He told her of a programme for refugees in the dual study programme “Business Informatics – Sales & Consulting”, in which she would earn money straight away. In this programme, the company is cooperating with the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University in Mannheim.

To get a place, Siham Abulzahab had to meet a number of challenges. “There was a two-day training course in programming at SAP. In a final test, we had to solve programming tasks and demonstrate whether we had understood everything correctly.” She completed the test successfully and won over the interviewers in the subsequent interview. Her good Syrian school-leaving qualification also contributed to her getting a place at the university. Just one year earlier, she had achieved the language level C1/C2 in a German course for refugees at the University of Mannheim. This meant that she was able to provide evidence of the required language skills.

Prospects: good chances of a permanent position

Before starting her studies, Siham Abulzahab took part in a preparatory course for refugees that is offered by the Cooperative State University. “In it, we enhanced our skills in the area of mathematics and academic work,” she reports. The student is now in the fifth of a total of six semesters. Her timetable includes modules in both business administration and informatics. These include accounting, process management and economics, as well as databases, programming languages and system analysis.

During her periods of work experience at SAP, Siham Abulzahab is allowed to choose the department in which she would like to work, and learns to apply her knowledge there. “I was initially worried because this course has such a practical focus,” she remembers. “It is actually much more demanding than a normal study programme at a university, but it definitely has advantages because you gain practical experience at the same time. And the company provides us with a lot of support.” Theoretical periods and periods of work experience alternate every three months. Her prospects for after the completion of the course are looking very good. “I already meet all the conditions for being taken on permanently by the company. I would really like to stay at SAP and possibly do a Master’s in the area of business informatics or business administration in two years’ time. That would be possible alongside my work.”