International Studies Archives - St. Stephen's University

Equality in europe

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

I have now been in Europe about seven weeks. I’ve been having a wonderful time and the weather has been lovely. I often feel like a child just awed and fascinated by nearly anything. There is one thing that has stood out to me quite boldly though, I first noticed it in Spain and have continued to notice it in every city we have been in. Maybe the International Studies lectures and presentations have been affecting me more than I thought. I’ve been noticing that beggars and slums seem to be more scarce, although they do exist, but inequality seems to be very present. I’ve noticed that people of different origin than the country they are living in are often ignored and do not seem very integrated into the societies they must live in. They often are given very poor jobs that are looked down upon by the local native people of the land and are often treated poorly and paid poorly. According to Jonathon’s presentation today they were brought over for this specific reason. However I have to admit, I am not entirely surprised just a little caught off guard. I often feel uncomfortable when I go to pee in a washroom and when I am finished a black or Indian lady will clean up after me. I feel like it is the modern form of slavery. They technically are free but in a sense they are enslaved in this cruel circle. They need these jobs to survive and the Europeans feel they are above such tasks so it seems like a win win, if only they were not treated like the dirt they clean. You can imagine my discomfort in seeing a city of white wealthy men and woman being cleaned after by people of darker ethnicity, it sort of leaves me with a guilty feeling. As I mentioned I’m really not surprised but what is surprising is how a person can go from a high paying job in one country to a bathroom cleaner in a another. I was talking to a man who was an orthodontist in Iran and he came over to Europe because his family was not entirely safe because of the political situation and their religious standing, and now he has a low paying job and lives in a very small apartment. He is obviously very intelligent and very capable but he is discriminated against. If he wants to be able to continue his career here he has to go to school all over again, as oppose to writing a test. I know that it is the exact same way in Canada too. Yet North Americans and Europeans can go just about anywhere in the world and get a decent job. I know people seem to have valid arguments for being frightened by some of these groups of people but that is something that can change and has to change. When people are treated as lower humans they will eventually begin to act like it. Something has to be done.

hanging out with saints

By | Europe | No Comments

I took 6 International Studies students to a soup kitchen in downtown Barcelona run by the sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta to help serve a lunch for people whose situation forces them to turn to places like soup kitchens for support. Mostly men from 25-45, most of them were immigrant workers from other countries trying for a better life in Barcelona. We served and cleaned up lunch for over 300 people, which was a privilege to help out with.

The best part of the day for me was being able to spend time with the sisters and other volunteers. I talked with a man named Francisco for a while, who comes regularly to serve at the soup kitchen. He spoke of how he felt a deep sense of satisfaction in coming here, knowing that he was contributing to something purposeful and meaningful beyond himself. He spoke of the sisters and how he was constantly amazed at their ability to give and receive nothing in return. He was almost emotional as he conveyed to me his deep sense of respect for these women.

The last thing we spoke of was how proud he was to see our group of young people coming to serve alongside him and the other volunteers. He related to me that far too often the only messages he received regarding youth spoke to him of how they were disrespectful and selfish. The sisters and other volunteers accentuated his observation with their expressions of “moi bien” and the smiles on their faces as the students participated with them in the serving and cleaning the soup, fruit and bread.