Accepting refugees into a country is an ongoing debate between citizens globally. During my time in Rome, I had the opportunity to speak with Nathalia, a global studies major at Temple University who volunteered at the JNRC (Joel Nafuma Refugee Center) during the Spring 2021 semester, and participated in the JNRC migration course. Reflecting on the conversation, it was eye-opening to see the amount of strength that it takes for refugees who fled their home country to start over in a brand new place. Oftentimes, refugees flee their countries with very little, so it is extremely important to listen to the community and understand their needs.
After the interview, Nathalia and I discussed how the word “assimilate” wasn’t the right word. Nathalia initially used the word assimilate to describe how refugees need to adjust, however, we discussed how the way we phrase things can have an impact on a sentence. “Assimilate” gives the notion of dropping your old identity and conforming to the identities around you, while “acclimate” is less harsh and implies remaining who you are while adapting to a new environment. We decided to drop assimilate and use acclimate.
The most important thing that I learned through this experience was how we approach the situation. Instead of asking “Should we use our country’s resources to help people that are forced to leave their own country?” we should try asking ourselves “If we have the resources, why shouldn’t we share them with people who are forced to leave?”
Watch my full video interview with Nathalia Ruggieri below.