Preparing to Return Home

The last four weeks have helped me learn a big lesson; a lesson I didn’t realize I was getting. I couldn’t pin point it until after a few of our group discussions and then it became more clear and it is cultural competency. In our small groups, we were able to share our frustrations with the language barrier we were having as most of us did not speak the local language (Italian). One student compared our lack of cultural competency with the Italian culture with how immigrants and refugees must feel when they go deal with the culture of their host country without knowing the Italian language. It made me realize how frustrating it must be for them to deal with officials about their papers and/or if they needed help on health services, etc., without knowing any Italian.

On another note, all of us on this program were expected to do some ethnography work for our video project and yes, we had translators with us and everything, but it still wasn’t easy. The language barrier is not just about loosing a few words here and there. No, it has been about loosing crucial information needed for our supposedly “authentic” research. That lost information is sometimes done unintentionally while other times it gets me thinking if it was done on purpose. Why do our translators give us the sweeter and milder version of the truth? It’s a bit upsetting. We are not getting accurate information. This has happened very obviously during our meeting with the Mayor of Castelsardo town when we asked him if he knows anything about the Roma population living in his town. He said “there are no Romas living here. I know everyone in this town” thankfully Vicente (a famous Roma activist, who was visiting us that day) asked the mayor “how do you know there are no Romas here?” he was implying that the mayor was using skin color and certain ideas of how Romas look like for making that judgement call. Vicente can pass as a white man, his skin is as white as a white person’s but he is a Roma man. And Roma people usually have a darker complexion but some are light skinned. Vicente later told us that the mayor was being racist in labeling Romas as dark people. Even though the progressive Italians, like this mayor have good intentions and want to help immigrants integrate into the society, unbeknownst to him and the others, they perpetuate the same racism and power structures that they are trying to demolish.

As I’m slowly packing my things and preparing to go home, I’m going to miss the island. One moment I was swept off my feet with its beauty and charm. The next moment I would look at it and feel sad, sad about the many lives that tried to reach its shores, but they couldn’t make it. Overall, I really enjoyed my stay here and I’m leaving with a lot of lessons and memories made. Thank you Italy for your warm welcome and hospitality. Grazie mille! (Thanks a lot).

 

 

 

 

 

While Abroad

 

It’s been one week since I’ve been in Alghero, Sardinia.  I’ve learned so much already, from trying new foods, experimenting with preparing food for yourself, doing new activities with other, living with house mates.

This week we learned about Roma population (informally known as Gypsies), Bangladeshi and Cameroonian refugees which was an eye-opening experience. To be honest, hearing their tragic stories about why they fled their country was unsettling for me. I was surprised by how I felt about it because my own parents have been through forced migration from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan so I should be familiar with how that experience is like. But Later that day, I realized that the reason I could not relate to these refugees is probably because my parents never really shared details or their feelings about their migration. Meeting the refugees has motivated me to try and approach my parents and see if they’d be willing to share their experience with migrating.

Since we are abroad and we don’t have our personal cars and we are not so confident in using public transportation, we walked. A lot. Our school was 20 minutes of walking from our apartments. We walked there and back every day which isn’t that bad but it gets tiring. I cannot remember the last time I’ve walked so much on a daily basis because We don’t walk much in the US. In Uzbekistan, I waked a lot but I was just a kid back then, it’s different now.

Since we, my study abroad group, is studying about refugees right now, I can’t imagine how much walking refugees must have done and how tired they must be because of carrying either their bags or their children. They would be walking from the loading docks to the refugee camps, or to the border. I had water on me when I went walking but these refugees probably didn’t, or had very little of it. I had bandages… for my blisters, I bet they didn’t. If one person’s feet are wounded without protection, since there are many of them, the infection can multiply and increase. I’m grateful for all the volunteers who stand to welcome the refugees because they not only hand out food and water, but they give medical supplies too. Those volunteers are the true heroes in this crisis.

 

Pre-Departure

Blog by Feruza Ghias, Community Psychology, and Society, Ethics and Human Behavior, CHID Sardinia: Island Migrations, Health, and Social Justice

I chose this program because it aligned well with my double major in Community Psychology and Society, Ethics and Human Behavior. Through these two majors I have learned a lot about sociology, psychology and a bit about cultures from around the world – all of which interest me a lot. This program will be focusing on the following topics: social justice, health and migrations. Through this program we will be working on one big class project which is creating a video about Multicultural Societies. We will be working with migrants that have arrived in Sardinia, interviewing locals and other key individuals involved with migrants. We will ask them what they know about the recent mass migration happening in Europe and what their opinion is on the influx of immigrants on their island. Additionally, we will study about how migrants’ health is affected by their immigration situation. The location of the program- Italy, mattered, because many immigrants and refugees that travel to Europe, first must go through Italy in order to get to their desired destination. Some of them don’t make it out of Italy for various reasons and so that would be another thing we would look at – what happens to those immigrants and what their prospect future looks.

Since this will be my second time studying abroad, there still are many things I could learn from this experience. For instance, this time I will be living with room mates, which I have never done. I tend to be a neat and organized person, but I am concerned if my room mates are going to be the messy-type and how will I deal with that. Academically and Professionally, I want to work first hand with migrants and refugees. I hope to learn about their life in their country and why they fled their country and what their hopes are for their future. Since I am not 100% sure of what I want for my profession, I hope that this experience will shine some light on certain topics that interest me and I hope that can help me in narrowing down my academic interests and my intended focus of what I want to do in my profession.

I have never been to Europe but always wanted to visit some day. I can’t wait to make new memories!

 

-Feruza

Missing the Little Things, Makes Me Appreciate them More.

I am thankful to be staying in a pace that has a bed. I know that most of the things that I complain about are things that most people around the world do not have. I have a lower back problem and the beds at Eucalipti have made it worse. I cannot not complain that people would fight over a bed and some do not have a home that has a bed. You bring comfort and safety to most people. Our accessibly to beds in America is mind blowing. I have seen so many mattered shops across my town. I wonder if there are or is a charity where they donate beds to people across the world? Most third world countries work in agricultural or manual labor jobs and that can take a toll on their bodies from long term effects. Studying the migrate farm worker population in Washington State, most of them live in poor housing conditions with no or one bed which they have to share with their families.

When I complain about something as little as to having a bed that makes my back hurt, I feel awful about. I am so privilege to have these item and have access to them verses someone else who have to sleep on the floor or give up their bed so their wife children can sleep comfortably. We have access to a lot of things many people to do not and when we complain we keep forgetting about the people who are living without these things. I definitely forget sometimes and then I think about and realize what I complaining about. I hope this changes for me and I can be more appreciative about the things I do have in my life. Which I am don’t get me wrong, I have worked and paid for everything that I have. With my mother having cancer, she has medical bills to pay for and by helping her out I pay for my own things and help her out whenever I can. I want to not take life for granted and work my hardest at everything I do. I plan on volunteering in Seattle somewhere to give back to the community. I have a passion and interest in working with communities and I would like to have everyone have the same access to resources as do I, but at a more affordable price or free. Thank you bed for giving me and others a place to sleep.

What Study Abroad Means to Me.

I have always that each study abroad program was the same. The one most advertised are the ones where you get to travel to Africa and help the children and families out. I would always see people on Facebook taking pictures with the children and having such a good time. As my college years went by, I took a course called Global Health. One of the topics that my professor discussed was the issue about studying abroad. She said that it is not all what you expect. We are entering their home, their personal space, and culture. Especially in the line of work that she did (medical anthropology) she said that when the group of study abroad people or doctors would come over to Africa they would be given medical supplies but when they left, there was very little. The supply was so scarce and not easily accessible as it is here in America. As for the pictures, many of them do not want to be photographed. Many study abroad students do not ask if they can take their picture or if it is okay to post it on social media. The whole idea about study broad has changed my perspective. My idea of helping them out is a little screwed after talking that course.

My experience all throughout this trip is me not teaching them, but rather them teaching me. The people of Vel Mari and the University of Alghero have taught me so much about migration, social justice, and multiculturalism. Everyone’s idea about traveling abroad to specific places like Europe because it’s beautiful or it’s on their bucket list; it’s so much more than that. It’s more than the pictures that people post on Facebook of the people they meet or are supposedly “helping”. I know some students were angry in the first week because they wanted to work more with the people of Vel Mari, the doctors and so on. These expectations of making a change is solely by working with the people is not always right. I was a little upset that some students didn’t realize that we have to learn more about the project and background information of migration and the refugee camps before we start the project. I think that people have these high expectations of what their study abroad experience should we and are not opened to changes or different ways of learning. I say be opened to anything that happened during your experience and be accepting of it and just being about to study abroad.

Back at Home Reflections

I’ve only been home from my study abroad experience for a few days, so I know that adjusting back to life in Seattle takes some time, but it definitely has been challenging, more emotionally than anything. My sleep schedule is off, so I find myself wanting to nod off in the afternoons, which means I wake up in the early morning hours and have to find creative ways to fill my time. I’ve also been experiencing some sadness and depression around being home, and feel a bit disoriented and unsure of what to do with my time. While in Italy I was so focused on other people and helping to contribute to the bigger picture, but now that I am home I have to focus on my own life, deal with things I’ve been putting off, and begin pursuing my deep passions and interests.

Aside from the issues I face personally, I miss the friends and connections I made in Alghero, Sardinia, the warm and sunny weather, and the vast number of stars visible in the night sky when you’re walking along the beach. I miss the walking around and exploring, finding new restaurants, and enjoying panoramic views from hotel rooftops. I miss staying out until 4am because we’re all having so much fun socializing and dancing with our new friends, and I miss the hospitality that we were shown from locals and the community members we worked with.

As part of our curriculum, we touched on topics such as white privilege, marginalization, and issues facing migrant and refugee populations. Being born and living in America was a lucky chance, one that many do not get to experience. This has been an internal struggle of mine, especially since I’ve been back home, as I am constantly reminded of the luxuries around me. I’m finding it hard to enjoy things at times, as I will begin to feel guilty about these luxuries when I know that others are just trying to survive with much less. We have more opportunities and resources here in America, and it can be a hard reality to sit with, but in one of our reflection letter assignments while abroad I brought up the fact that all I can really do is acknowledge my privilege honestly and vow to use that privilege in order to help others.

Something else that I’ve realized and accepted is that nobody really wants handouts and nobody wants to be pitied. I say this because there were times throughout my trip where I felt bad for those we were working with and their situations, but I realized that most of these individuals who have immigrated or were forced to flee their home countries, are fully capable human beings who just need resources and help from others in order to get back on their feet and be self-sufficient. Although my heart goes out to those we worked with and their oftentimes tragic pasts, I have come to realize that they have been through so much already that their current realities and their future experiences are probably nothing in comparison to where they’ve already been and what they’ve already experienced. Obviously hardship will fall upon us all and they are no exception, but I definitely have a new perspective on all of this, for which I am grateful.

I know going forward that things will fall more into place and will get better, I just have to be patient and take care of myself in the process. I look forward to finishing my degree this Spring Quarter and going out into the workforce to help those in need by providing them with resources and empowering them to be self-sufficient in order to build the life they’ve always wanted.

Final Week of the Program

I wanted to make this post last week, so it’s a bit overdue. It was the final week of the program and I was not looking forward to making this post because I would have to yet again recognize that it was really the final week. We gave our last goodbyes to the host families and danced with them during a musical performance. Although my Arabic course was difficult for me because I feel that there wasn’t enough practice with the material, as it felt like new things were piling on top of new things that we had to learn, I really liked my teacher and the fact that there were only 2 students including me, so it made the learning environment much more tailored to our individual needs. Also, throughout last week and a few days during the prior week, each of us worked with a Moroccan student on a paper that had to be all in Arabic. I chose my topic on Moroccan culture where I talked about traditional food, clothing and language of the country. It was great working with the Moroccan students not only because they helped us with the Arabic papers and presentations, but also because they became our friends. Another thing, one of many things that I appreciate about the culture here (of course not exclusive to Morocco) is the hospitality of for the lack of a better word, strangers, or at least I feel like one. I will remember all the families that I have been invited to stay with despite the fact that they didn’t really know me. Anyway, these last 2 weeks of my stay here have been bittersweet because I am definitely leaving a piece of my heart here in Morocco, something that I was not expecting. Over time, some of my experiences here became mundane, especially by being caught up with the academics of it, that I forgot I wasn’t going to stay here for much longer. Now that I have to leave tomorrow, I wish that I had more time to explore the country.

Mama I made it! (To Amsterdam)

Amsterdam is such a beautiful city! Everything is so lively-regardless of the weather!  The canal houses are gorgeous with the different bricks and shapes that are along the street and the canal itself glistens as we walk past it with our group.


13533024_1272089552801930_5458599226095340174_n

We are a diverse bunch of students who specialise in mainly design and a couple of CHID students.  Our first couple weeks here have mainly been museum, cafe, museum, discussion, cafe, museum, etc.  I’m not complaining though, it’s been truly amazing.  Being able to study what I love in a new country has really been eye opening in a sense where what I’ve learned back in my class in the states has been helping and contributing a lot to what I am learning over here.  

Speaking of academia, we don’t necessarily have your typical classroom setting, sometimes we might have discussion in a park, a cafe, a restaurant, or even or student kitchen, but having these different environments really give us a versatile way of brainstorming and to have kind of an informal comfortableness to it all.  It’s also nice to hear different perspectives from different design majors such as industrial, architects, human-centered, and interaction.  Myself and another person are only the UWB students so it’s interesting to compare the different methods we both been taught but its cool to bounce off ideas from each other.  

What also has been cool was meeting some amazing designers! We went outside the city of Amsterdam to places like Utrecht, Rotterdam, Dordrecht, and Hague to meet various designers that range from fashion, graphic, and speculative.  They definitely weren’t what I was expecting since we mainly saw fashion and industrial designers whereas I am more of a technical designer but it was still amazing to meet these designers and having them tell us about their work.  To be quite honest, not a lot stood out to be but it was still enriching to hear why they starting in the design field and what they loved to create.

After visiting these designers, I felt more validated in the field I want to work with in design which is user experience and interface.  Studying here so far has reconfirmed where my passions are in design and what I want to do for my future career which is developing and creating iterations of applications.  Also, my freedom of independence here is definitely something I am relishing in like having my own place, cooking my own food, and being able to go out on my own and explore the city.

Refugee & Migrant Populations in Italy

20160714_043142-minOur study abroad program here in Alghero, Sardinia, Italy has focused on migrant, refugee, and marginalized populations. One of the organizations we’ve been working with is a camp referred to as Vel Mari, an old waterfront hotel that houses individuals fleeing war-torn countries and/or other dangerous circumstances. One of the biggest hurdles that residents living at Vel Mari face is finding and securing a job in their new country of citizenship. In order to legally work in their new place of residency they need to have their documents first, which can sometimes take up to a couple of years to obtain, depending on the seriousness of their case and on their ability to prove the circumstances they are fleeing from. Additionally, for many of them, the local language is not their first and oftentimes their native language is drastically different than that of the country they are now living in, making it difficult for them to integrate into their new surroundings.

While staying at Vel Mari individuals are taught Italian, as it is necessary in order for them to find work, but this attempt is futile for those who are uninterested in staying in Italy and want to resettle in a different country. An example of this is a young man staying there who is originally from Eritrea but made the journey to Italy by way of Sudan and Libya. He has lived at Vel Mari for over a year and although he has all his documents, he stresses the lack of available jobs and how frustrating it is to essentially be stuck in Alghero with no opportunities. He has expressed interest in traveling to Germany, France, or the United Kingdom in search of better options, but he has stated that it is difficult to travel elsewhere because you need money and you can’t get money without a job!

Even for those who wish to stay in Italy and learn the language enough to speak it fluently, the reality is that there are minimal to no jobs available for them to take. Alghero, while being a more open and accepting community for refugees and migrants compared to many other places, is still a smaller city with its own economic hardships, some of which might be due to the limitations of seasonal-work, as well as the recent removal of Ryanair flights bringing tourists and other people to the island. Another factor people staying at Vel Mari have to deal with is the public’s perception that they are lazy or unmotivated to find work, are just seen as roaming the streets of Alghero, and that they are not contributing to the local economy or society as a whole. The problem with this perception is that it is steeped in ignorance, as the community is unaware of (or is unwilling to learn) the truths behind their presence. The reality is that they are willing to work hard and integrate more into the culture, but they are literally unable to do so with the lack of available jobs. Residents of Vel Mari are no different than most other adults trying to make ends meet in life, as in they want to be self-sufficient and not have to take hand-outs from other people, but this is only possible if they are receiving an income to be able to pay rent, have transportation, and afford other expenses.

Studying Abroad: What You Need To Know

Blog by Tessa Rough, Environmental Studies, CHID Italy

Tessa

Tessa tries something new – paragliding in Switzerland

Do:

  • PACK LIGHT!

I can’t emphasize this enough. Traveling internationally is already expensive – spend your money on experiences instead of extra baggage! Don’t forget to include a smaller pack in your luggage to use for weekend trips.

  • Attempt to learn the language

You don’t have to go out and buy Rosetta Stone, but keeping a book with key phrases in it can go a long way when you’re abroad. Bonus points if you memorize these key phrases!

  • Try Something New

Studying abroad is an incredible opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone. Make new friends, try new foods and most importantly, soak up the culture around you!

  • Be Aware

Although I am a firm believer the good in the world will always outweigh the bad, traveling abroad can definitely pose some risks. Remember to stay alert, travel with a partner and check in with loved ones regularly.

  • Pack Medicine

Accessing the same medications that are available in the United States can be much more difficult while abroad, especially when a language barrier is involved. Even finding something as simple as Tylenol can pose a problem so pack anything you might need!

  • Bring Outlet Converters (Multiple)

Wherever you are in the world, it’s likely that the outlets will differ from the United States. Research levels of voltage beforehand and bring several converters to avoid experiencing any electrical problems.

 

Don’t:

  • Expect English

Many cultures consider it rude for foreigners to expect everyone to speak English.

  • Drink A Lot

It’s easy to take advantage of the relaxed alcohol laws while abroad; however, this isn’t a good reason to visit a new place. Many study abroad students have also reported feeling less tolerant to alcohol while visiting a foreign place. Always remember, less is more!

  • Forget Cash!

Many stores and restaurants around Europe are cash only so come prepared!