Husam Al-deen Al-Barazy was working as a lecturer in language education at the University of Damascus when the school started getting bombed. He fled Syria last year with his family, and then he and his sister sailed on a cramped boat with 300 others from Libya to Italy. They ended up in the small German town of Düppenweiler, near the French border, where the German unemployment office offered Al-Barazy a job at a laundromat.

It looked as if he wouldn’t be returning to academia for a long...

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