“The Dark Side of the Boot” has been a great adventure, it has been a bet, a dream come true, but above all, it has been a lesson for all of us. The topic of our Summer University (SU) was self-development and the refugees’ crisis happening right now all over Europe. We wanted our participants to go back to their countries with something more, with something new. We wanted them to experience the SU in a funny way, but at the same time, we wanted them to learn something more about our country, and not only the good aspects of it, that everybody knows, but also the darker side of it.
Our 30 participants had the chance to meet many refugees, who are currently living in our city of Udine. All these people, as they told us, ran away from the war in Syria, but some other came from Afghanistan and Pakistan. We listened to their incredible stories, to how they had to leave their families, including their children, back in their home countries to seek a better future for all of them. In their country this was simply no longer possible. We had the chance to understand the reasons that pushed them to leave their realities, and start a long and risky journey. We also saw how Italy is trying to integrate them into society, helping them with the language, the culture and customs, thanks to some volunteers that are offering their free time to help them.
Participants also had the possibility to do some volunteering during the SU at Caritas, an Italian association that hosts and helps everyday-people, not only refugees or immigrants, but also the homeless or poor people, giving them a hot meal and shelter. The participants had the chance to give some of their free time for a good cause, seeing how sometimes, if you give a little love, you can get so much more in return. It has been a great experience for everyone. Sometimes you don’t realise the value of what you have, the importance of love and of all the little things that you own, and that are normal to you.
We also created a sort of refugees’ path simulation. We wanted the participants to understand how a refugee’s journey looks like, and so we thought about a story where everyone was involved with a different character. Each of them got the name of a person who really existed, and who really did do the journey to Europe. We were telling the story, and they had to follow it to see what was going to happen to their character, and what was their destiny. It was very helpful for them, because they really experienced it from a first-person-perspective: the fatigue and the hard conditions that refugees have to deal and live with during their journey to Europe.
It was a great SU, a bit different maybe from the other ones, but it will always be with us, what we saw, what we experienced far beyond our expectations, and what we thought. We understood a lot of things during the event, but the lesson that I am going to remember forever, the lesson that I learned from my participants, that is also the key for everything in life, is that no matter what, people need people, and people will always need people. No matter where you come from, no matter which language you speak, no matter the colour of your skin, people need people. I know, for someone this lesson is just a cliché, heard a million times, but sometimes even though we pretend to know it, we don’t really understand the deep meaning of it, or we don’t really listen carefully to it. So keep in mind: people need people.
Written by Stefano dal Farra, AEGEE-Udine