We have been in Alghero for a week now and things are finally starting to feel routine: the daily walks to the grocery store with natural unsterilized-looking food, the daily strolls in the beaming sun, and the daily trips to the crystal clear beaches. It truly is paradise. Some days, the biggest dilemma is whether or not to go to the beach or chill by the pool to do some reflections.
The resources and privilege we have as study abroad students is absolutely incredible. As a class, we were honored to be invited to Vel-Mari Refugee and Migrant Center. Following that, we met frontline leaders of the refugee crisis in the afternoon. Hearing their stories, I could not help myself from spiraling into reflection.
We are people who attend university in the United States, who all have passports/documentation and some level of monetary supply, studying in Italy. With that, the twenty American students stroll into rooms assuming that English translation will be at our disposal all the time. Yes, I admit, it is quite difficult at times to formulate and critically think about the English translation when an Italian thick accent is attached, but I find it incredibly ironic that only one member of our study abroad program knows Italian enough to hold a decent conversation. It is quite presumptuous of us to enter into another country, another culture, another language and assume that English will always be there. The language barrier separates us. It makes it incredibly hard to communicate with the Italian refugees and professors. I fear that the important and critical details of the refugee processes and stories are lost in translation. I cannot help myself from thinking how, we as students, are oppressing the refugees here. The refugees are already suffering through unbelievable traumas and I am beyond honored to be gifted with their stories, but why is it that we assume they know some English, rather than having the students of privilege know Italian. It is heartbreaking to think we might be contributing more harm than good to their horrific situation. It is hard to not have a power dynamic when the levels of privilege separate us so deeply at times.
As I sat and rested between classes, I reminisced to my younger self complaining that I had to go to Saturday school for extra English language class. I remember tears of frustration and embarrassment that I couldn’t properly write simple statements when the other students eloquently spoke already. My self-confidence took the blunt of my language difficulties. It is really difficult not to absorb the looks and shame other students, cashiers, parents will give you and I wonder if we are contributing to that.
In deep thought, I walked down the beach trail to where a panel of refugee frontline leaders and doctors met with us to speak about their experiences. I am blown away at what all the leaders do to contribute help to the refugee crisis, but I was especially astounded by the Doctor Speranza’s work. The doctor was in constant on-call to help refugees who might be arriving at any time of the day. She helped patients regardless of where they came from, what their skin color was, or what their faith was. The heartbreaking story was regarding that the most common symptom coming right off the boats were the immense bruises the women had. The people, human beings like you and me, were and still are risking their life on paper thin dinghies. Even without a driver, with life jackets purposefully stuffed with drowning materials, and incredibly dangerous waters, human beings determine this 50/50 life or death boat is better than staying in their war-torn country. The boats are excessively stuffed with as many people as possible. This is where the bruises are from. The women and children are squeezed so tightly that bruises develop. It hurts my heart that human beings have to endure this type of horror to have the very basic human right of safety, but it hurts my soul that people on our world are actively opposing helping refugees.
It has been such an unimaginable trip. A trip full of great joys of paradise, but such sorrowful stories. I look forward to hearing more stories from frontline refugee leaders and refugees. This first week has definitely opened my eyes and I look forward to the rest of the trip that has allowed for so many critically informative discussions.
Grazie per aver letto (Thank you for reading), Ciao!