Starting Monday, a group of 18 Arizona State University students won’t have a normal study abroad experience.
A mix of graduate and undergraduate students are leaving for Greece as part of a two-week internship. While there, they will assist refugees fleeing from countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. They will also work in refugee camps on the island of Lesbos.
“Many of the students tell me they’ve never been abroad, they’ve never been to Europe,” said Dr. Julie Murphy Erfani, director of the master’s program in social justice and human rights at Arizona State University. “They certainly have never been in the middle of a humanitarian crisis, but they’re really up to the task.”
Erfani will be leading the trip as part of the Interdisciplinary Global Learning and Engagement program (IGLE).
She said refugees have been smuggled across Turkey. Once at the Turkish shore near Lesbos, they make the crossing with smugglers on rafts. Then, refugees apply for asylum in the European Union.
“These people have fled their lives, they’ve left everything,” Erfani said. “We’re going to try and assist them however they wish.”
She calls it an intensive internship for the students. They will have the chance to work in the refugee camps where they will work eight hours a day and help adults and families, but will specifically focus on assisting unaccompanied minors.
“Those kids, who are very subject in Europe, as it is right now, to being snatched out of the camps and the shelters by sex traffickers,” Erfani said.
Students in the social justice master’s program traveled to Ghana this past fall, where they worked with victims of human trafficking. Erfani said these trips are eye-opening experiences for students.
“There’s just nothing equivalent to going to a site, to live it first hand,” Erfani said.
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