Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Political Science in Naples, Italy: Off to a Great Start

Well, I can honestly say the start of this volunteer trip to Naples, Italy has been great. Most people don’t like these kinds of trips because of all the long and sleepless travel and the jet lag you get from the flying. For me, that has not been the case, because I’ve been blessed with the ability to sleep anywhere if I’m tired enough. For the first flight, I traveled from Toronto to Rome, which takes about eight and a half hours. When I got on the plane, I sat in my chair and instantly fell asleep. I was fortunate enough to sleep the entire plane ride. This made for a great start to the trip. When I arrived in Naples I was well rested and completely ready for adventuring into the heart of the city and Italian culture.

            The first few days were a little disorienting. There was so much to do and so much to explore. On the first full day, we got a very brief but very helpful orientation, where we learned the basics about our volunteer program, the history and culture of the city, and some basic Italian for communication. Then, we got a tour of the city. This tour lasted for about two hours, but it covered a good portion of the historical center of the city. Of course, because Naples is in Italy, we saw plenty of old and beautiful churches and lots of ancient architecture. This first day was very short and easy, but it was very helpful in preparing us for the work ahead.

            On our second day in Italy, we had another orientation. However, this time, we actually got to visit the volunteer centers where we will be contributing for the next month. This was definitely interesting, since we got to meet many new and interesting people who we will work with. I got to meet a very nice lady who is my specific volunteer coordinator at LESS. LESS is a non-governmental organization that helps refugees in Italy. My coordinator’s name is Lucia. Luckily, she is both intelligent and very fluent in English. She has also been an excellent guide, teaching me about my role in the volunteer headquarters and the work I will be doing, which is mostly administrative.

            These past few days volunteering at the headquarters has been rewarding, but challenging at times. Mostly, I am engaged in project coordination with other refugee organizations, translating resumes from Italian to English, planning fun events for the refugees, and communicating with both the United Nations and the European Union. My job has mostly involved communicating with coordinators from these international organizations. If LESS actually becomes a partner of these larger organizations, it would receive many benefits, including access to resources from them.

            It honestly feels amazing being here. We haven’t even gotten to our first weekend yet, and I’m already having so much fun on this trip while still learning! My fellow classmates and I are already planning trips to Pompeii, Rome, and even Germany for the coming weekends. All of these trips will help broaden my cultural understanding, while at the same time being very fun and interesting.

- Christopher Niepsuj

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