Last semester, eleven LUISS students from Professor Francesco Cherubini’s International Organizations and Human Rights course took part in the Studenti in Fabbrica initiative. Participating in a project by Adoption Lab (AdLab), which aims to put students in contact with organizations that operate in their fields of study, the students were able to work with NGOs in the field of human rights, offering assistance to migrants and refugees.
“The Studenti in Fabbrica program is based on a simple concept: complimenting traditional teaching methods with experience in the field,” explains Professor Cherubini. “In other words, putting students in contact with that which laws, numbers and theories attempt to explain: real world situations with real human beings. This is particularly easy when it comes to international protection: students understand the true, real and tangible meaning of a migrant reception center, told by an asylum seeker or those who have already been granted protection.”
Among the participants, Onofrio Lattanzi, Sara Saddik and Oscar Gugliotta spent two weeks at the Open Dialog Foundation’s Ukrainian World Centre, working with Ukranian refugees in Warsaw. "Open Dialog-Ukrainian World has two offices in Warsaw,” explains Onofrio. “One is a front office that provides information and assistance while also performing fundraising activities. There we work on various projects, attended meetings with important figures from Ukraine, and held a conference on the refugee situation in Italy. In the second office, we performed studies and research, prepared articles and projects, and worked on relationships with other institutions.”
“Almost every day we worked on research projects and on writing articles,” adds Oscar. “Some afternoons we worked in a reception center where we spoke with Ukrainians that left their country in search of a better life. Their stories were so touching. During my time there I asked myself a lot of questions on why things are they way they are and why nobody wants to change them. I came to the conclusion that the migration phenomenon cannot be stopped.”
Lucia Tafuni participated in the project, working at Il Sicomoro, a SPRAR Center (Protection System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees) in Matera. “Preparation during the course was excellent. Professor Cherubini explained what SPRAR centers are, how they are organized and what they do,” explains Lucia. “Il Sicomoro’s goal is complete integration of men, women and families with different cultures, languages and habits, into the city of Matera. This experience opened a window to a part of my country that I ignored. I didn’t think there could be so much attention on immigration and I never imagined that the work of so few people could influence the lives of so many.”
In just a few weeks, the Il Sicomoro staff introduced her to many different aspects of their work. “I went to the police station to deliver and pick up documents to request asylum, helping me to learn about the legal process behind the request system. I accompanied a staff member on a housing inspection and a social worker on a doctor’s appointment for a Tigre woman and her two-week-old child. I also participated in an Italian lesson, which are mandatory for all those in SPRAR projects.
Encountering different people, organizations and tasks enabled the students to develop their thoughts while up-close with the migration phenomenon. According to Oscar, “understanding and working in human rights is so important for young people; I’ve had other work experiences but I have never had such deep contact.” Onofrio says the experience has caused him to “jump to the other side of the phenomenon, without a media filter,” while adding that “these organizations do not simply do humanitarian work, but involve the economic, political and human side, which is the most vital aspect of every experience.”
Lucia also found the experience meaningful, even if it was short. “Listening to the stories of young women, my age, changed me. They are not immigrants, they are not refugees, they are not asylum seekers. They are people that have suffered and share our dreams of having a better future.”
The testimonies of these students are the best accounts, beyond any rhetoric, on how to transform what students learn from books into true life experiences. Students have a lot to teach to their professors in terms of mental flexibility and the ability to constantly change their behaviors,” concludes Professor Cherubini. “There’s satisfaction in seeing the abstract structures that we teach in classrooms become something more operational. It’s like working on a dress for weeks and then finally being able to wear it.”