Yufei Du, a Princeton In Asia Fellow working with us at JUMP!, recently took a trip with some other JUMP!ers to Germany for an Experiential Education Conference. While mostly having a blast, he also had some reflections he’d like to share:
My experience in Germany so far, mostly focusing on Experiential Education and its many applications, was suddenly given some perspective with something deeply personal. On Sunday morning, our German colleagues had planned a trip to a pop-up refugee center where 55 young men from Syria and Afghanistan, no older than 25, without any family or friends, are being sheltered. Almost all of them ended up in Germany less than a month ago. Before the visit I had assured myself that intellectually I was prepared; however, upon arrival, emotionally, I was not. While talking with Wali, a 15-year old refugee, at some point in our conversation he brought up that his parents were killed by a car bomb planted by the Taliban. I was so caught off guard by the comment it shocked me into silence. But without missing a beat, Wali ended the awkward silence, picking up a different topic and inadvertently comforting me with a smile; a smile so big that its vividly replaying in my head while writing this reflection. It was a moment when the immigrant crisis, something so political and academic, something saturating the news and in turn contributing to a collective indifference, suddenly became personal, in my face, meaningful. It crushed me when Wali asked how long I would be staying in the center. My time in Germany had an end date and a guarantee for fruitful learning and effective networking; his was still clambering for even a semblance of a plan. We spent the next twenty minutes playing football together with some other exchange educators and refugee boys, the same thing we did an hour earlier when we had first met. As I motioned to leave, I saw in his eyes that he still had more that he wanted to share with me. Or really just anyone willing to listen.