Communicating Migration and Integration in Sicily

When reporting news and creating media, the local context is key. This rule is especially true in Italy, where each region has its own local culture and faces unique economic and social challenges. By studying in Italy for a full semester, students have the chance to learn about the many regional differences. 

Last spring, students participating in a semester program in Rome from the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism embarked in a week-long study tour in Sicily. Their objective was to investigate the connection between current events on the island and media coverage, both at the local and national level.  

One of the main topics explored was the current flow of migrants that land at the shores of Sicily, and how local and international media have been portraying this phenomenon. The subject closely resonates with students living in an area like Southern California, which is itself a center of mass immigration. To better understand such complex topic, students visited the Centro Interculturale di Aiuto e Orientamento (CIAO), an NGO supporting migrants in the Syracuse area. There, CIAO founder Giorgio Bainaudi showed them the facilities and illustrated the organization’s activities and key projects. CIAO’s main goal is to help migrants in Sicily, either in providing transit to their destination in Europe or assist them in settling locally. Thanks to its wide network of volunteers, this organization offers Italian language courses, afterschool programs for children, and free legal support and counseling.  

As part of their visit to CIAO, students learned about the various aspects of migration in Sicily from other experts on the topic as well. First, they met with Piero Tasca, Communication Manager of Casa delle Culture Scicli, another NGO that promotes the integration of migrants into the local workforce. Tasca discussed the importance of communication and messaging for a non-for-profit dealing with such a sensitive topic, which is often at the center of heated debates. Students then heard from Guido Nicolosi, who teaches sociology of the media at the University of Catania. Nicolosi gave a short lecture about the press coverage of incidents at sea involving migrants and the role of media in the construction of a shared social memory of these events. 

The on-site visit and the conversations with local experts gave students a chance to closely explore the complex reality of migration routes in the Mediterranean. By engaging with NGO volunteers and communication experts in the field, they gained a more in-depth understanding of this phenomenon and of its portrayal by media.  

Accent collaborates with U.S. partners during the program design process to identify company visits, expert guest speakers, and other experiential learning activities to complement program learning goals. Please reach out to Accent’s Program Development team at if you are interested in discussing these ideas for your customized study abroad programs.