Thursday, July 28, 2016

Political Science in Naples, Italy: Quick Trip to Berlin, Germany

This past weekend, Chris and I decided to take a weekend trip to Berlin, Germany. Neither one of us had ever been and had always wanted to visit. Even with the recent attacks, we both knew we would have regretted not going while we were over here in Europe. So, we booked flights for only €56 through Lufthansa, an airline that I would highly recommend using if you are ever in Europe, and made reservations at the Steingberger Hotel for the weekend.

On Friday morning we woke up from what seemed to be only a nap, because we went to bed just past midnight and set our alarms for 0330 to go catch our 0530 plane to Munich. We wanted to give enough time to try and find a cab as well as ensure that, if we couldn’t find a cab at 0400, we would be able to make the five-mile hike to the airport in time to catch our plane. Luckily, there was a cab company only a quarter mile from where we are staying. After reaching the airport with plenty of time to spare, we made it to our terminal and managed to take a cat nap until it was time to board.

Once we reached Berlin, we immediately went to the hotel to check in. We were in awe of the difference between Italy and Germany. There is an obvious difference not only in the architecture, but also the general level of cleanliness. Once we checked in, we dropped off our bags and went to the concierge to ask for suggestions on places to get lunch. To our surprise, he told us there was a bier garten no more than a quarter mile down the road. He also gave us the gift of two free local 0.5L beer coupons. Once at the bier garten, the food and beer did not disappoint!

Later that afternoon, we went on a hunt to find a local bar crawl for that night. Every person we spoke to highly recommended doing a bar crawl to try local bars that the common tourist might overlook. We ended up going on a bar crawl that another cadet, who had been in the area earlier this summer, recommended. The Hostel180 bar crawl costs €12 and includes drink specials at every stop, so it would be hard to pass up. Needless to say, it was a late night.

On Saturday, we decided to walk around sightseeing. We crossed the Spree and happened to come across the Parliament Building as well as a random festival taking place in the Tiergarten, right in front of the infamous Brandenburg Gate. Once again, we found ourselves going vender to vender, indulging in the plethora of German beer that had been ever so kindly laid in front of us, just asking to be sampled. Later in the afternoon, we went back to what had become our favorite bier garten for dinner before we went back to freshen up to go on yet another bar crawl later that night. This beer crawl was a little closer to our hotel than the one the previous night, but it was supposed to end in East Berlin… a place some argue is one the best party scenes in Europe. Again… it was a late night.
When Sunday morning rolled around, so did checkout. Our hotel was kind enough to store our bags for the day, so we could walk around and enjoy more of Berlin before flying out that night. We ended up walking to the US Embassy and following that street all the way to the city center and the Fernsehturm. Once there, we found a bar and restaurant at the top. We felt obliged to have a commemorative beer at the top — one last toast to what we felt was a very successful trip to Germany.

Then, we began our journey back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and continue to the airport. Little to our knowledge at the time, there was a large storm system over Frankfurt, which caused our flight to be delayed for an hour and a half. This, in turn, caused us to miss our connecting flight back to Naples. Luckily, Lufthansa automatically rebooked us for the first flight out in the morning, so we got to enjoy another night in Germany, this time in Frankfurt. Lufthansa gave us each our own room at a local hotel as well as €40 towards dining expenses.
The next morning, we found ourselves back at the airport at 0830 to catch our 0915 flight to Naples, and we were back before noon. My trip to Germany was all that I could’ve hoped for and then some. The overall experience was just superb, and I would highly recommend it to anyone that is in Europe and looking for something fun to do one weekend.

Robbie Machamer

Political Science in Naples, Italy: The Role of the Italian Coast Guard in the Refugee/Migrant Crisis in Europe

Europe is currently experiencing possibly one of the largest shifts in population in its history. As of late, hordes of refugees and migrants have been landing on the shores of many of the southern nations in Europe, such as Italy, Greece, and Spain. A spike for Italy occurred in 2011 with the overthrow and later execution of the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi (National Geographic, n.d.). Many of these “guests” are making their journey from the western nations of Africa as well as the nations of the war-torn Middle-East. This journey is not one of luxury. The migrants often arrive in boats that the average Charlestonian wouldn’t even trust to take across the harbor over to Shem Creek. Yet, thousands of migrants are continuing to attempt to sail across the Mediterranean Sea in hopes of reaching Europe. Far too often, these daring voyages have ended in tragedy. This year alone, 2,606 recorded migrants were lost at sea on their voyage to Italy (IOM, 2016).
Due to the recent loss of life at sea, the Italian Coast Guard has been taking an active role in EUNAVOR, a joint naval operation being conducted by members of the EU in an effort to rescue migrants and refugees from the unforgiving waters of the Mediterranean. As of this year, the Italian Coast Guard alone has taken an active role in the rescue of approximately 37,000 refugees and migrants. Often, the Coast Guard scrambles every available vessel when it discovers vessels in distress, owing to the sheer numbers of migrants and refugees aboard these vessels.
The number of migrants and refugees on any given boat can range from 100 to 500, and often when one boat is discovered there is another in the vicinity (Guardia Costeria, 2016). This is because they often launch a couple boats at a time from Libya in the hope of staying together throughout the perilous journey (Vogt, 2016). There are cases, however, when the outcome is not fortunate for the migrants. This leaves the Italian Coast Guard rescue divers with the eerie job of body recovery. For instance, in 2013 there was a case where 368 migrants’ lives were lost at sea not far off the coast of a small Italian island (National Geographic n.d.).
Hope does not appear to be on the horizon. There is currently talk within the EU of closing the migrant route through Greece and Turkey, owing to instability. This means we will likely see a spike in the number of migrants and refugees that will take the long, daring trip across the Mediterranean in the near future. This will likely jeopardize more lives among those with the false hope of reaching a prosperous European nation. Little do they know that if they do in fact make it safely across the Mediterranean, they will merely land in a nation that is in the midst of its own financial crisis (Spindler, 2016).

Robert Machamer

Guardia Costeria (2016) “Comunicato-stampa-21-luglio-2016” July 21. Available at: (accessed July 27, 2016).

International Organization for Migration (2016) “Migrant, Refugee Deaths at Sea Pass 3,000 as Arrivals Near 250,000.” Available at: (accessed July 27, 2016).

National Geographic (nd) “Amid Record Waves of Refugees, Italy Finding Limits to Its Compassion.” Available at: (accessed July 27, 2016).

South China Morning Post (nd) “Italian coastguard rescues 4,000 migrants in two days, as asylum-seekers look for alternatives to Greek route.” Available at: (accessed July 27, 2016).

Spindler, W. (2016. Coastguard rescues some 1,000 refugees and migrants off Italy. Available at: (accessed July 27, 2016).

Vogt, A. (2016). “Italian coast guard scrambles vessels to rescue 3000 refugees in Mediterranean.” The Daily Telegraph, May 25, 2016. Available at: (accessed July 27, 2016).

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Political Science in Naples, Italy: Muslims in Naples, Italy

While in Naples, Italy, we have learned there is a large Muslim population here. According to a Pew Research Report, there are currently more than 2,220,000 Muslims in Italy, making up approximately 3.7 percent of the population. These “guests” as some refer to them, have brought with them a strong cultural and religious heritage. They have migrated to Italy, seeking to settle here or other countries in Europe and gain opportunities they would not have in their own countries.  As volunteers, we are working with Muslim individuals from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Eritrea. Their holiest holiday, Ramadan, was still in progress when we arrived.

We learned Ramadan is “the month in which Allah contacted the prophet, Mohammed, to give him the verses of the holy book, or Quran.” Muslims routinely pray five times a day, but during Ramadan, prayer is particularly important.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims practice fasting while the sun is shining. The fasting period, which is considered an Islamic duty, does not allow them to eat or drink anything, including water, while the sun is shining. The purpose of fasting according to Muslims, is an “opportunity to practice self-control and cleanse the body and mind.” It also provides a feeling of fellowship with other Muslims. They also believe fasting and prayer makes them closer to Allah and compassionate for the poor. Muslims spend time helping the poor and giving donations to the Mosque during Ramadan
At the conclusion of Ramadan, there are celebrations with family and friends. People dress in their best clothing, give gifts to children, and eat special foods. 

A large feast is made to celebrate the conclusion of the fasting period. Two of our students were present at the end of Ramadan and accompanied the Muslim migrants to a town plaza for the final Ramadan prayer and celebratory feast.

As part of a city tour with a group from one of the shelters, we had an opportunity to visit one of the neighborhood Mosques and meet with an Iman. There were several women in the group that had to place scarves around our heads as makeshift hijab. One of the Muslim ladies with us took great care to tie the scarves for us in the appropriate style. 

When we entered the Mosque, we were told we were using the door normally used by men and that women have a separate entrance on the side of the building. We were asked to remove our shoes before entering the carpeted room. The only decoration in the room was a multi-colored lamp with a rug underneath. The Iman explained the lamp faced Mecca and was where the Iman would lead prayer.

The Iman displayed the Quran and informed us that Muslim people are traditionally peaceful, and ISIS and other terrorist groups are not acting in accordance with the faith.

The Iman believes the local community of Naples has accepted their presence and respects their culture and faith. The community cooperates with them by moving their vehicles from the street during holy days to allow the Muslim people to congregate for prayer.  He thanked us for attending the Mosque and hopes in the future the world will see Muslims in a different light.

- Barbara Brown

Political Science in Naples, Italy: Quick Trip to Berlin Before the Last Week In Naples

So, now we have finally come to our last full week in Naples. Honestly, this trip has been an amazing experience. I have had multiple opportunities to learn more about different cultures and the refugee crisis. It has also been interesting to see how our classes correlate so well with the actual volunteer work we are doing here. Learning more about human rights and development on this trip has made it even more interesting to be around people coming from poorer and war-torn countries. The cultural immersion that I’ve had on this trip is truly amazing.

Not only have I been studying and volunteering in Italy, but also this past weekend I had the opportunity to go with a fellow cadet to Germany. The two of us decided to take a long weekend vacation in Berlin, since neither of us has been there, and we’ve both wanted to go for a long time. We had a great experience, since we got to see much of the city and historical areas. The first day alone we got an opportunity to see Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg gate. Throughout the rest of the trip, we had plenty of new experiences, especially with the German food and historical sightseeing. Germany was a great trip, and I appreciated the fact that we got a chance to experience German culture and history during this program.

Now we just have the final week left in Naples before this service learning trip is over.  During this week, there is still tons planned for working with the refugees. We have a few more tours, taking them to different castles and more of the historical center in Naples. I will still be working in the office a bit more throughout this week. However, I was told it should be mostly administrative work for the remainder of our stay. After that, I will be heading home this Saturday to enjoy a few more days of summer before reporting back to the Citadel.

For me, this experience was very interesting, and I’m glad I got to go on this trip this summer.

Christopher Niepsuj

Political Science in Naples, Italy: Rome - The Vatican

This past weekend, a small group of us visited Rome. Let me tell you, it was incredible! I’ve explained to a few people that Rome is very nice (and surprisingly clean), but there are so many tourists everywhere! This week, we decided to be some of those tourists. After all, it’s Rome!

Barbara, Michael, Robbie, Chris, Todd, and I took a train on Saturday from Naples to Rome. It takes about an hour, but we got to see some beautiful countryside on the way there. So many small towns hidden in the hills and mountains. Gorgeous!

Confession: we were all more excited about the fact that our hotel had hot showers, wifi, and air conditioning than anything else. Plus, it had a great view of a quaint neighborhood outside of the “touristy” part of the city.

Our Saturday began by visiting the Vatican. We paid for a tour guide, so we could skip the line. The tour was terrible (the group was way too big), but it was worth the money just to bypass the lines. We entered on the museum side, so we had to go through security and a large gate. It was almost like going through airport security and customs. The Holy Sea is its own country after all. 
After we finally got in, we could had an amazing view of the back part of the city, including St. Peter’s basilica. It’s a huge dome, so you really can’t miss it.
We entered the museum courtyard, and I was a little confused about what everything was. This confusion lasted about an hour. Specifically, they kept talking about the Sistine Chapel there. Beforehand, I didn’t know that the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s basilica were actually in the Vatican. When we got inside, everything finally made sense.

The museum was incredible! So many pieces of art, that I became immune to it after a while. Almost. These were a few of my favorite pieces.
All of this and more was leading up to the Sistine Chapel. It is all so breathtaking that I was beginning to wonder if the chapel would even compare to all this art or if I would feel underwhelmed because of everything I had just seen. I was wrong. After viewing incredible ceilings and statues, we entered a plain white hallway that was very small. (I should mention that we among thousands of people shoulder to shoulder this entire time). This hallway turned into stairs, then after a few turns, we were there. The Sistine Chapel.
Our first inclination was to take pictures, but there were security guards there to make sure women covered their bare shoulders (a dress code); people don’t talk, and most important, that we didn’t take pictures. I broke the last rule. I got two or three pictures in before security stopped me. But, the first had to be the most amazing.
I remember studying about Michaelangelo in my fifth grade literature class. Our teacher taped a piece of paper under each of our desks, had us choose a scene, and we had to draw upside-down like Michaelangelo. It was very difficult and so much fun. Looking at this ceiling, all I could think about was the hard work that went into this piece of art. And, this was his first attempt at painting! We could see every little detail. I actually enjoyed the fact that it was silent; it made the moment feel more astounding. By far, the Sistine Chapel was my favorite part of Rome. 5 stars!

- Emily Harmon

Political Science in Naples, Italy: The Citadel — Number 1

I feel compelled to write a short blog of my own about the service learning program here in Naples, Italy.  This program, initiated by my wife, Dr. Sarah Tenney Sharman several years ago, provides "on the ground" experience for the students.  I have had the honor to accompany and volunteer with these student groups a few times.

The program here in Naples deals with the refugee problem and gives the students great insight into this problem globally.  There are four graduate students and four undergraduates in the program this year.  The students are working with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), dealing with a tremendous influx of asylum seekers, migrants, human trafficking victims, etc.  Over 76000 have arrived in Italy this year alone.  As you can imagine, this creates tremendous pressure on an already overwhelmed system. 

The students are writing their own blog about their experiences, so I will let that speak for itself.  My purpose is to tell the Citadel community that it would be very proud of these students and how they have represented the Citadel by diving in and working with these organizations.  As one organization leader put it, " these are real soldiers."
This is the vision my wife had when she initiated this program.  I think I can say confidently that for the NGOs here, the Citadel is #1 not only among Southern schools in America, but it is also #1 in southern Italy.

- Howard Sharman

Political Science in Naples, Italy: Immigration Tension in Italy

Italian policymakers currently face one of the biggest political dilemmas of their time: how to deal with immigrants coming into the country. The majority of these immigrants are young men from Nigeria, Pakistan, Gambia, Senegal, and Bangladesh. Is the reason for these men risking their lives political or economic? They all settle in the country seeking political asylum. However, the majority are migrating for economic reasons. Unfortunately, there is no way of telling whether their motivations are political or economic. Some may have come from devastating homelands, but others who have economic reasons for migrating may not be completely honest. Either way, there is a migration problem occurring in Italy.

            Natives in Italy have been arguing and protesting the construction of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) whose purpose is to assimilate these migrants into Italian life while they wait to be approved for asylum. This problem is not unique to Italy, but is common in many European Union (EU) countries. Immigrants coming from Africa are being picked up in the Mediterranean Sea and immediately transported to Italy. Out of the large number of immigrants that have crossed the border in the past year (approximately 150,000), less than half have actually been fingerprinted and identified (~68,000). Migrants intentionally avoid being documented in Italy, because their goal is to travel to Germany or Austria. This is because the unemployment rate in Germany is the lowest in the EU, and it is the highest in Italy. However, the Dublin Regulation, an EU immigration law, requires that the first country you enter is the one where you must remain.1 Thus, most migrants avoid documentation until they reach their intended destination.

            The terrible unemployment rate is the primary reason Italians are fighting immigration. Overall, Italians are a very hospitable people. But, the threat of migrants taking the few jobs available is enough to cause tension among the locals. The unemployment rate in Italy hit an all-time high in November 2014 at 13.10 percent. This month it rests at an average of 11.5 percent. The youth unemployment rate (jobseekers between the ages of 15-24) is at 43.70 percent.2 Most of this is a result of an economic crisis that began in 2007 and has been ever-so-slowly recovering. The country is starting to see restoration in the form of the Jobs Act (labor market reform). There has also been a shift from false freelance work to stable employment, because of declining costs.3 The lack of employment opportunities in Italy is enough to make the locals weary of outsiders.

            Migrants are not able to come into the country and automatically find (legal) employment. Approximately 77,970 asylum applications were filed in Italy in 2015.  Until their application for asylum is approved (a process that can take up to two years), the migrant must find a place to live. This can be with friends or family, or an immigration facility that houses migrants. An asylum seeker can only be placed in a facilty after his or her application have been filed. Even then, there is a shortage of facilities, which are already overcrowded.4 Once there, they are required to take language classes to assimilate to Italian culture. Some migrants, however, do not take advantage of this opportunity. A permit to work is granted six months from the time of the asylum application. The majority of these immigrants are classified as economic refugees, which do not qualify for political asylum, and their paperwork is declined. They then have the choice to appeal once; otherwise, they are deported.

            The requirements for political asylum are very specific. “You can apply for refugee status if in your home country you were directly and personally persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, or if there is a well-founded and proved reason to hold that you may be persecuted in case you return to your home country (in compliance with the Geneva Convention).” If there is any prior refugee status or you have been convicted of a crime against the state, then an application for asylum is declined.5 Overall, this is a very lengthy and complex process.

            After working with many of the refugees staying in NGO facilities, I have witnessed the complexity of this system. However, many of the migrants living in these facilities live just as well, or sometimes better, then some native Italians. They are given a room, cell phone, meals, and a daily allowance (about €2 a day). The problem, however, is political and economic. Who among these immigrants qualifies for political asylum? How many claim asylum when they are migrating for economic reasons? This is the stressful job of the courts to determine who really qualifies. But, pressure from the EU forces governments to accept all immigrants, despite their reason for leaving their homelands. Where is the line to be drawn?

            Human rights advocates stress the horrible circumstances immigrants face while traveling and the fact that so many die trying to get to Europe. Even Pope Francis discussed this issue at a meeting with Catholic scientists and compared refugees that drown in the Mediterranean or die in the Sahara to abortion.6 But, is it Italy’s responsibility if someone from Africa puts himself in danger in order to make more money? Human rights are important, and many people have the right to work for a better life, but accepting all immigrants without question is like treating cancer with a band aid. At some point, we must get to the root of the problem: why are these people leaving in the first place?

- Emily C. Harmon

1.  The Dublin Regulation [Internet]. [cited on July 24, 2016]. Available from
2. Italian unemployment rate [Internet]. [cited on July 24, 2016]. Available from
3. Unemployment in Italy down [Internet]. [cited on July 24, 2016]. Available from
4. Aiyar, S., Barkbu, S., Batini, N., Berger, H., Detragiache, E., Dicioli, A., Ebeke, C., Lin, H., Kaltani, L., Sosa, S., Spilimbergo, A., & Topalova, P. The refugee surge in Europe: Economic challenges [Internet]. [cited on July 24, 2016]. Available from
5. How to apply for asylum in Italy [Internet]. [cited on July 24, 2016]. Available from

6. Brooks-Pollock, T. Pope Francis compares Mediterranean migrant crisis to abortion [Internet]. [cited on July 24, 2016]. Available from