Tales of a Displaced Youth: José

Leaving your country of origin to look for a new job is quite the task, especially for those who have to learn a new language. This is the story of José Aceto, who climbed German mountains—and prevailed

Photo: CoinDesk

José Aceto graduated from medical school in 2016. He had always planned to do his medical residency program abroad and then go back to his native Bolívar, in southern Venezuela. By the time he graduated, he still wanted to go abroad for his residency, but coming back wasn’t part of the plan.

Something that cemented his decision to leave took place shortly after graduation. Medical doctors in Venezuela are required to do a rural year, and in Bolívar, they get to choose according to how well they did in medical school. José graduated first of his class, meaning he should’ve had first pick regarding where he was going to do his rural. However, graduates with acquaintances in the government office chose before José. He realized that having the right connections would always overrule performance in chavismo’s Venezuela.

After considering Italy and Spain, due to his family roots, José started to research Germany as an option. There, he would have no trouble finding a job after his residency. The biggest obstacle would be the language, but always eager to learn new things, José started to study German during his rural year. He left for Germany in April, 2017. 

After he arrived in the city of Wesel, he took an assessment test, where he was placed at the B1 level. He started an intensive course an hour away, in Düsseldorf, in which he felt terribly challenged as he had to interpret texts in German at a level he wasn’t used to.

As he did all the paperwork necessary to get a work permit as a doctor, he was able to find a job at the Red Cross. However, José had to take a medical language test for which he studied alone. He did great, and he now had a permit that allowed him to stay in Germany. He could only work for two years, and only in North-Rhine Westphalia. 

“As he did all the paperwork necessary to get a work permit as a doctor, he was able to find a job at the Red Cross. However, José had to take a medical language test for which he studied alone.” Photo by José Aceto.

José applied to as many hospitals as he could. As the days went on, his stress increased, until suddenly, all the places started to respond. José went to four interviews, and the four hospitals offered him the job. He started to work as a medical doctor in June 2018. 

During this time, José got to see how difficult it was to make friends in Germany. While he always was treated with respect, German culture is a lot more reserved. His colleagues wouldn’t consider him a friend for a long time. 

He waited until he felt more comfortable with the medical language and the German medical system to apply for the permanent validation of his degree. He would have to take a comprehensive exam, in which he would be interrogated by a panel of three doctors for an entire day.

In 2019, José was notified about the date of his test only a month before he had to take it and the place appointed would be Münster, infamous for having the toughest evaluators, with a very low approval rate.

José had to review six years of med school in German, and would later remember this as one of the hardest months since he left Venezuela.

The day of the test came and José, along with four other doctors, were interrogated for over ten hours. José’s preparation and his German skills didn’t go unnoticed and he was one of the two who passed. Now, he plans to keep studying Internal Medicine. In the future, he’d like to set up a consult where people from different nationalities feel welcomed, and where he can make use of both his medical knowledge and his language skills. Germany is a very different place from what he had seen in Venezuela. Slowly but surely, he has earned the trust of his colleagues, and he has developed true friendships. He doesn’t know what the future will bring, but he knows that he is in the right place for him, and for whatever may come.