Immersive Classroom Experiences

Josh Marrs
April 25, 2016

Recently, I went with my Valuing Diversity class to go to an Immigration center in Rome. The valuing diversity class looks at the issues surrounding immigration and immigration policy in Italy. Through this class, we are able to also look critically at the current immigration crisis and how it affects those living in Italy as well as those who are trying to seek asylum in European countries, especially Italy. What I really love about this class is the field studies that we have the opportunity of doing. How many classes at IES Abroad Rome work, is that on Monday there is a one hour lecture period. Then, on either Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, there is a 2 hour section where there is either a lecture, or, more commonly in my experience, a field study to somewhere in Rome that we’ve been discussing. For example, with valuing diversity we have gone to the Museo Nazionale Emigrazione, a multicultural middle school, a Sikh temple, and Centro Astalli which is an organization that helps refugees integrate into the Italian society. However, the trip on Monday to the Immigration center was probably one of the most memorable field studies I’ve attended.

At this center, we participated in a Italian language class with the immigrants. During the class, we first played a game where everyone stood in a circle and a ball was thrown. When the ball came to you, you had to say your name and also remember the name of the person who you toss the ball to. After doing this, we had to go in order of tossing the ball and saying the person’s name whom you tossed the ball to you. This was a surprisingly difficult game, mostly due to the language barrier between everyone, some of us didn't speak any Italian and most of them didn't speak English and only spoke a little Italian, but also due the fact that I am terrible at remembering names.

After this game, we were split up into groups with about half of the people in the group from IES Abroad and the other half were from the center. In these groups, we had to come up with a skit where no one spoke using words but could only use hand gestures. In our group, this was especially difficult since the three of us from IES Abroad were all in Italian 101 and none of the people from the center spoke any English. Having to come up with a skit, where we only use hand gestures, essentially without being able to talk about what we were going to do except by using hand gestures was extremely difficult. However, it was an amazing learning experience and I felt very accomplished after we planned our skit and performed it flawlessly.

Living in a country where you barely know the language is certainly one of the greatest learning experiences and challenges I’ve faced. When you don't speak the language, sometimes you have to rely on universal signs and you can feel very helpless when there’s no way to convey the meaning of what you're trying to say. This challenge forces you to really think about what you need to say and is really a humbling experience when you feel powerless in a foreign country. It has really taught me to appreciate the amount of hardships that refugees go through as they often come to a country and not only can't speak the language but also have so many other difficulties going on in their lives due to being forced to leave their home country from fear of persecution. This class at IES Abroad really gives me hands on experience with these issues that face Italian society and it’s a truly enriching experience.

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Josh Marrs

<p>My name is Josh Marrs and I am a junior from Rice University in Houston, Texas! I&#39;m majoring in Sociology with a major interest in social inequality. My passions are playing tennis, basketball, ping pong, and any other sport I can get my hands on. Visiting Rome has been one of the biggest dreams of my life thus far and I will be fulfilling that dream by studying in Rome during the Spring of 2016. This will be my first time experiencing another country and I can&#39;t wait to share my experiences and reflections.</p>

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