Sometimes it's hard even to tell you've been abused!

As foreign students, we are confronted with a whole different level of abuse, sometimes at multiple intersections at the same time. It's not enough that we have to grapple with language difficulties and different university systems that we're used to back home. Most of us are away from family and lack the emotional support that this affords to our local colleagues. On top of that, we're totally oblivious to power systems in the academic domain. We're first-generation academics from a different culture, we’re early career researchers that are not familiar with how academia functions altogether. In my second semester during my master’s, I sat in a class by one prominent professor. I'm an engineer attempting to enter a new field of study and I'm a beginner in or how a German class goes on, what's on and what's not. My last name has a religious affiliation. I was told to explain Islam's position on the topic at hand as a "Muslim" without asking me if I am. I didn't know this was illegal. She never asked any of my classmates the same about Christianity or any other religion. Before even the deadline for papers came (which one might decide not to submit altogether and attempt something else later) I was not getting any ideas and suffering from how difficult and different the research approach was from what I'm used to. I didn't have to, but I decided to be polite and share these difficulties with the above-mentioned prof and ask for advice! I got invited to her office where she was accompanied by a research assistant, who I knew from another class I took, and then I was simply grilled! I've no better expression to describe the 15 minutes of humiliating, judgemental, zero-sympathetic talk she gave to me. She told me I have to write the paper within the deadline in perfect German language, and that I was there to "ask for empathy, but I'm not your therapist!! We're at a university" and when I choked up with tears she yelled at me and said "Nein, du machst das nicht hier". I glimpsed at the teacher and his face was red but he didn't say a word! I consulted my program's coordinator who told me I could seek mental help after this experience and was so supportive and informed me about my rights and I didn't have to deal with this prof anymore. She teaches a core subject that I would've been otherwise totally interested in, and trying to avoid her classes affected me in so many ways (time and mental health.) During the third semester, another prof offered me a student's assistant. job at their department. I asked how close I've to work with her, and when he couldn't guarantee I wouldn't have to, I didn't take it (I don't know how that affected my academic career and my path forward.) Other students and student's assistants have complained about her and it's well documented that I wasn't a lone case. I was scared when someone asked me if I would like to share my experience when they planned to come out with theirs. My background scared me of the consequences this might entail on me as she's very powerful in the faculty and has an influence on my major directly. I was scared she'd retaliate and I didn't want to go through this before I finished my degree. I'm starting a research assistant job (PhD) at the same university, and I still won't be able to work with her if I've to and I might. On social media she's championing #ichbinhannah and I can't stand the hypocrisy. Even writing this I'm doubting myself and scared she might read it and realize herself in this story and retaliate!

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