This is a very different "news" than we are used to reading. Because this time it is not about the latest research results, but about the people behind them and the WHY.
Timothy Oshiobughie Imogore, born in Nigeria in 1998, is working on his PhD in the "Ultrafast Opics" group at the Institute of Applied Physics (IAP) since 2018 and came to Jena via a scholarship from the Abbe School of Photonics (ASP) in 2015.
Living with Sharia Law
So much about the facts, but for Timothy this was the chance of a lifetime and the start of a real future that he would not have had at home. Since 2000, Sharia law has been in force in his home country, and everything changed for the then 8-year-old boy coming from a Christian background. Insecurity, death of neighbours, friends and more than one life-threatening situation until he studied physics, initially at the Federal University of Technology Minna. He talks about this in the Optica article "Survivor" (fomerly OSA) Survivor | OpticaExternal link.
The depressing story of a young person who has been confronted with death so many times in his home country - and who has also survived direct terror several times - makes it clear how conflict hotspots affect us - even if they are hundreds of kilometres away - and what positive impulses we clearly provide here in Jena. Because, as Timothy explains to me, his parents would not have been able to raise the money for his education abroad. The money would not have been enough to support all four siblings with equal opportunities.
The ASP scholarship as an opportunity of a lifetime
The ASP scholarship was practically the game-changer for Timothy's life. From the very beginning, he felt at home in Jena, despite or perhaps because of the cultural differences: "I fell in love with Jena. The freedom of religion in Germany is a really beautiful thing. The lack of religious and gender segregation and discrimination was a breath of fresh air. I could literally smell the freedom. The presence of safety and security and value for human life was comforting and reassuring. Jena was known as the city of light, a place whose history is linked to optics and photonics. That alone was captivating."
„For me, integration means experiencing many new things and being curious!“
This open attitude is also reflected in Timothy's face when he talks about his enthusiasm for physics and his research work, about the people and culture he has met here. For this feeling of having a second home, he has done a lot as a matter of course: "Free language courses, the offers of the ASP and the commitment of my personal mentor Michael Müller, also from the IAP, were wonderful helps for me to quickly find my way around and to develop personally. At the same time, I played music with friends in a band and met my future wife there. For me, integration means experiencing many new things and being curious! Perhaps this little story shows how well I feel integrated in the meantime: In my home country we never ate pork, so I had reservations. But when I first bit into a Thuringian sausage, I can't stop eating it ever since - even if my fiancée would prefer me to be a vegetarian, of course!" laughs Timothy.
Africa at heart
Even though he feels well settled here, Nigeria remains a big part of him - it is still not clear whether his parents will be able to attend his wedding due to the current political situation, and for him, a visit to his home country is life-threatening. But he also wants to inspire young Africans for optics and photonics: "I think education is the key to freedom and overcoming violence. Moreover, Africa also has the potential to become an optics and photonics powerhouse like the United States and Germany. My vision is to exploit the potential of young Africans to make the African continent a major player not only in optics and photonics but also in other high-tech fields."
Why is it important to tell this story?
In our work, we have daily contact with many inspiring people who, through their very different experiences and perspectives, open our eyes to what we perceive as everyday. Their commitment can also motivate us and we realise through such very personal life stories that it is important to give young people a chance for education and support, so that values such as equality and democracy are filled with life and strengthened. Openness, tolerance and curiosity make life colourful for all of us!
This text could be the beginning of a small series about the people in the IAP who are willing to share their stories with us, so that we can enter into an appreciative exchange that enriches us all through the feeling of belonging together and also supports our new colleagues in their integration. Anyone who would also like to share their motivations and experiences, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org