Accent and Texas Christian University have partnered for nearly twenty years. Each fall and spring semester, Accent Study Centers in Florence, London, and Madrid host cohorts of TCU students enrolled at local universities within a highly customized direct enroll support model. This summer, we partnered with TCU to bring their long-established Global Academy program to the new Accent Sicily Center for Field Studies.
The TCU Global Academy program is centered around a complex global issue and brings students into contact with local changemakers to explore the issue from different cultural perspectives, understand the solutions proposed on a community level, and engage in critical analysis of the topic around core themes: culture, identity, community engagement, activism, leadership, and communication. In Sicily, the program explored the topic of migration.
Sicily gives students a first-hand introduction to the seriousness of the ongoing migration crisis and its impact on communities and individuals. Syracuse is a small city with tremendous resources that, due to its location on Europe’s southernmost border, is central to Europe’s ongoing refugee crisis. Nearby towns host hundreds and thousands of recently arrived migrants in limbo. A concentration of EU-funded projects and NGOs provide students with unmatched opportunities to learn from key players at work to address and resolve the crisis.
TCU students met with Iole Fontana, professor at University of Trento and researcher in migration and EU policy at University of Catania, who gave a historical introduction to migration in Sicily and a panorama of the current crisis and the role of NGOs in the Mediterranean. With this context, the group met with two local organizations.
Accoglierete is based in Syracuse and advocates for the role of legal guardians or tutors for unaccompanied minors arriving to Italy. TCU students inquired about the first-hand experience of work with unaccompanied minors and the facilitation of family reunions, and also asked for examples and anecdotes to better understand the integration process and policy changes have taken place in Italy in recent years.
Next, the students met with CIAO, the Center for Intercultural Aid and Orientation, which is a network or hub of local NGOs supporting migrant communities in Sicily. In a meeting with director Giorgio Bainaudi, students learned about the important role of collaboration across organizations and CIAO’s work to facilitate integration by supporting and connecting NGOs with different areas of focus, from education to legal support, healthcare to housing.
Together with other program activities and many opportunities for small group breakout sessions, these NGO visits allowed TCU students to understand migration from diverse perspectives and reflect on the role of local activists in affecting change for migrants arriving to Sicily and the communities receiving them.
Sicily is an ideal location for any number of disciplines, especially in the social sciences, allowing students to gain unique perspectives on migration, human rights, and cultural identity. Click here to learn more about the Accent Sicily Center for Field Studies.