Alice Motanga is a modern woman who successfully balances career and family on a daily basis. She was born and raised in Cameroon and later moved to study computer sciences in Germany. She gracefully mastered challenges like language barrier, culture shock and other hurdles; staying goal-driven all along. Her perseverance, hard work and discipline paid off. She is a successful consultant in computer sciences (Dipl. Inform) working with Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems FOKUS Berlin.
At this time of the year when many reflect on the past year and set new goals for 2010, a Sister-in-Germany talked to this inspirational, motivational and exemplary woman.
Dr. SEA: Good evening and a happy new year.
Alice V. Motanga: Happy New Year. Before I start, I must tell you how much I appreciate this gesture and I will have to congratulate you on putting your heart out there in what you believe in.
Dr. SEA: Thanks. What were your initial difficulties when you came to Germany and how did you adapt?
Alice V. Motanga: I came to Germany when I was 20 and had just ME to count on. Leaving my family was hard, but my dreams gave me hope for a better tomorrow. I convinced myself, it was the right thing to do for my family. The second issue was the language! It took me a while to feel comfortable enough with the language in order to express myself. That was very frustrating and as a result I kind of entered into a shell, a comfort zone. I was lucky I had the right people around me to show me; it was really not that bad and one can only learn from your mistakes. There are no other ways around it; one has got to embrace it. I am thankful I did. That is where the adaptation started for me.
Dr. SEA: You left home as young girl to study in a country millions of miles away, whose culture and language you knew little or nothing about and today you are a successful career and family person. What is your advice to many young ladies who are still studying or plan to study against all odds?
Alice V. Motanga: All odds right! I like the odds. Only the odds challenge us to grow and learn. To speak for myself, it was important for me to have a goal, because there sure will be difficult moments, guaranteed. And in these moments, the only thing you can hang on to is your promise. What did you promise yourself? Another advice would be to believe in yourself, set your goals not according to what people have or have not accomplished. Walk your path, and let the people how have made it be your source of inspiration but never your limit. At the university, the first two years were pretty tough, because I choose to remain in my comfort zone. Among other foreigners like myself who were facing the same problems. I later came to the realization, staying within these circles simply always reinforced the same complains, limitations and difficulties of the everyday life. Learn to integrate the new values to your old values, seek for information. So my younger sisters, my advice to you is to be open and have a passion to learn and a hunger for information that would take you forward.
Dr. SEA: In everybody’s life, there are moments when all seems lost and sometimes one is close to throwing away their goals for one reason or the other. What is your source of hope in such moments?
Alice V. Motanga: Sisters, if you feel you are losing it, take one step back and try to observe the situation from an observer’s point of view, I bet you a glue bulb is going to light up within you and you would know exactly what you need to do. Listen to that inner voice; that is your guidance. True, there are times when all seems so blurred. Moments like these, if you cannot count on that inner voice, it is important to have that one person you can talk to, who has the ability to push you again in the right direction. Surround yourself with people you can trust, and they will always pick you up. I have a quote I use very often...”Life is just a game and it’s all about attitude”. It helps me not to take things too seriously, and it reminds me everything can be fixed.
Dr. SEA: I can see you are a well-integrated person in Germany. What do you think is the key to a successful integration?
Alice V. Motanga: I am still working on being well integrated (smile), but thanks I take that as a compliment. What is the key to successful integration? Let’s see, integration to me is on many levels: personal, community-wise, culture-wise, nation-wise, international etc. I won’t claim to know how integration works on all these layers, but I think a common ground for integration is WILLIGNESS to learn, know and respect what is unknown to you and your kind. Integration to me is bringing in differences to co-exist. I have to be willing to accept differences from another person, community, culture, nation, etc without feeling threatened by them. That to me is the key to a successful integration.
Dr. SEA: As immigrants we face another spectrum of daily challenges of which non-immigrants might not notice. Do you agree?
Alice V. Motanga: Oh yes I agree, definitely. And these daily challenges have become so subtle, detectable only by the eyes of the victim. You see, that is not my business. I cannot change the way another person approaches or speak or treats me. But I sure can change the way I feel. So when I get confronted with an attitude, I sure as hell look pass it and don’t allow that one incident govern the rest of my day. I walk over it.
Dr. SEA: It is a start of a new year. How was your kick-off?
Alice V. Motanga: I had a really quite kick-off. I flew into the country on the 31st and was pretty much jet lagged for the rest of the day and night. But it was beautiful to observe others celebrate and watch the fireworks, receive and send out warm wishes to and from loved ones.
Dr. SEA: At this time of the year many people are setting new goals and resolutions for themselves. Did you set any?
Alice V. Motanga: I gave up on those four years ago, because by June I have forgotten what those resolutions were in the first place. For those I remember, I then find out, the year is half gone, and you are nowhere close to what you promised yourself. I won’t set myself up like that anymore (smile). I have an intention though. My intention is to live life in the present moment, hate less, love more and flow with the stream of life.
Dr. SEA: Many people, including me, find it difficult to keep and respect those new resolutions. Any tips on how to stay focused?
Alice V. Motanga:Version: Do not set yourself up like that, girl (Laugh). Nevertheless a tip is to actually start aligning your actions towards your goal. I once saw a beautiful quote...”a goal without a plan is simply a wish”. So in the process of setting your resolutions, ask yourself if you have a plan for it, and take baby steps towards that goal. Else, let us just push it into the wishful thinking category.
Dr. SEA: As part of a very aspiring African Diaspora in Germany I would assume you are conscious of the somewhat exponential growth of this minority group, especially families. What role must Africans assume to ensure a good and safe future for their kids in Germany?
Alice V. Motanga: This is a difficult one, because we can all speak about it, which is so different from actually doing. But I think Africans in general have a pretty good hand on family issues. The role they should take for their kids is to be a role model for them. Be what you demand your kids to be when they grow up, so they can easily walk your shoes and sing your songs. With kids in general, I think one aspect that is not fostered is the ability to develop individualist. We are pretty much taught to go to school, have an education, and become a doctor, pharmacist, accountant etc? What about the soft skills; dancer, poet, entrepreneur, singer etc? I know many people would disagree, which is fine, but look around; some of the healthiest people today made their passion their business. The you-must-go-to-school mindset outweighs you-have-a-gift-for mindset. I think there should be a platform for that as well.
Dr. SEA: Who are your role models in the following categories: family and career?
Alice V. Motanga: On family – The Cosby family (please don’t laugh). Though it was virtual, I grew up thinking of them as the perfect family and still do (I guess I am in trouble). Career-wise, oh I have lots of role models. Every strong woman (black or white) who shows a sense of direction, entrepreneurship, motivates and changes people’s life in a positive sense falls under my role model category. In general, if I am moved positively to be a nicer, wiser person by somebody, they are my role models. For example, you are one of my role models.
Dr. SEA: I must say I am flattered. Anything you might want to tell the African Diaspora in Germany, especially the women?
Alice V. Motanga: Build communities of people who hold and share the same values as you do. Engage in a WE-concept and not a ME-concept to help here and back at home. Be open to learn every single day. Information is out there, ready for us to grasp and make use of. Learn to build fruitful partnership for a sustainable long-term future for our communities. I must confess I speak not from experience, thus I wish to engage more in the African Diaspora to proof my concepts.
Dr. SEA: It was great pleasure talking to you. Thanks a million. Once again happy New Year.
Alice V. Motanga: I wish you a year full of grace, beauty and fruitful moments. Happy New Year