Research • 15 Feb 2017
Pilot-initiative: free course for refugee integration in higher education

A refugee is someone who ran away, who abandoned his/her country and requested help – refuge. The refugee did not decide to move home; may we underline that: he/she did not decide to do it. Integrating people in these circumstances is increasingly challenging because the limitations of those running away are greater that those who are given the power to decide to move home.

To live in a different culture demands integration in several domains, one of the most important ones being communication, to begin with. Adaptation to new ways of life, to a different cultural, social, political and economical setting in a new country starts with communication and understanding.

From 9 January to 9 February 2017, a course took place with a view of aiding refugees in this matter. ‘Living in a Different Culture’ resulted from a partnership between Lisbon Municipality – Department of Social Rights, CRIA and ISCTE-IUL (Rectory, Department of Anthropology, School of Social Sciences and the Transversal Skills Laboratory – which handled Portuguese classes).

Language lessons were guaranteed throughout the course and specific modules about the Portuguese society were taught by CRIA-IUL researchers, an ISCTE-IUL research unit. They were divided into subjects such as Portuguese Culture and Society; Religion; Institutions; Asylum Law (rights and duties); Urban Living; Social Relationships and Integration Practices in Portugal, under the rationale of creating an integration platform that escapes standardized stereotypes and subalternity conditions attached to the ‘refugee’ label.

All participants, around 20, had academic experience, either complete or incomplete. Individuals attending this first edition, and originating from Eritrea, Syria and Iraq, were expected to experience a higher education setting and to initiate an effective integration process by acknowledging their education skills. A few students will soon start to attend classes at ISCTE-IUL, although a possible integration in a course is yet to be formalized.

Feedback is highly positive and a new edition is expected, also free, with the voluntary participation of teachers and researchers, in May or June 2017. Formal integration of students in the Portuguese higher education system awaits guidelines for the certification of academic skills, facilitating the integration process.

More information in available on the CRIA website.

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