The comprehensive scholarships of the University of Barcelona

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  • Event 'Barcelona: City and university refuge'.
    Event 'Barcelona: City and university refuge'. . Source: Solidaritat UB.

The University of Barcelona (UB) , through the entity Solidaritat UB has had a scholarship program for people from conflict zones since 2015 .

The program responds to the university's aim to contribute to alleviating one of the problems that occur when a conflict breaks out in a country, which is the interruption of education and forced displacement. Thus, the scholarships are specifically intended for students who want to leave their country and who have already started their studies.

"What we provide", comments Sara Carmona , UB teacher and member of the UB Solidarity Support Program for refugees and people from conflict zones "are scholarships to continue their studies, we help them leave their country with a student visa ”. The scholarship program is comprehensive, which means that in addition to tuition, it includes accommodation in one of the UB's major colleges, food, a small financial aid, medical insurance, psychological and psychosocial support and legal advice

Solidaritat UB announces these scholarships through solidarity networks, the universities of the different countries in conflict, NGOs in these areas and UNHCR. Generally, around 15 places are offered, a number that may vary if not all people have graduated or if curricular adaptations have been made. However, there is never an empty square , a circumstance that reflects today's social and global needs. "Last year", points out Sara Carmona, "we received 500 requests ". The selection of the beneficiaries is then made based on an interview, and taking into account the needs of the moment and the available resources.

In the first year, for example, the scholarships hosted mostly students from Syria. In the 9 years of the program, students from Palestine, Congo and other African countries have also visited, as well as some people from Afghanistan following the Afghan crisis. "We are adapting", explains Sara Carmona, "to be able to offer a scholarship that is really utilitarian , that really meets the needs of these people".

With regard to the ages of the students, the scholarship is mainly intended for young students who have already taken around 30 degree credits in their countries of origin, since "offering the scholarship for the entire degree meant blocking the place for too many years , and taking on students who are too old would mean an adaptive difficulty to the conditions of flats and shared rooms that we can offer". In addition, a certain parity is also sought "because boys are usually forced to take up arms, and girls are doubly affected by the state of war".

In any case, however, " the number 1 requirement is the person's situation of vulnerability, since there are economic circumstances in which it will be possible to leave the country and acquire a tourist visa, but in other cases the person cannot he has these resources, and the scholarship means an opportunity to resume his studies and his life".

However, in these latter cases, help is never completely guaranteed , since there can be difficulties in the issuance of visas by the national or international administration: "Sometimes the visas arrive too late, out of step with the academic calendar, or they don't even arrive, because the veracity of our acceptance letters is not directly verified ," says Sara Carmona. It can also happen that once the students are here, the student residence permit does not cover the actual stay of these people, "because they consider that the course ends in June, but at the university it is not events and training actions are closed until September".

UB Solidarity scholarships have been allocated to 18 students this year . Among them, there is Abdikerim Husein Abdella , who is studying the master's degree in Construction and Representation of Cultural Identities (CRIC) at the UB, and lives in the university residence on Diagonal. He is from Somalia , where at the time he did primary school, but he had to flee to Ethiopia with his family to live in a refugee camp when the situation of violence in his country worsened. In Ethiopia he studied high school and got a university degree, but when he finished his studies he had to return to the refugee camp: " Ethiopia's law does not allow refugees to do too many things , there were almost no opportunities to work or study, and I spent three horrible years in the refugee camp doing absolutely nothing."

Through UNHCR, Abdikerim discovered the Solidaritat UB scholarships and applied. The process, however, was not easy. "For a person like me, getting a scholarship like this has its obstacles. I had to wait a long time for the visas and the necessary documents to leave Ethiopia", he affirmed corroborating what Sara Carmona said. Finally, however, and after a difficult journey, Abdikerim arrived in Barcelona on December 8, 2022. First, for just under a year, he did the transitional courses in Catalan and Spanish , which were essential to meet people and start building a network. Then, yes, he started his master's studies.

Now, he says he is very happy to be able to continue his studies: "For someone like me, who lived in a refugee camp doing nothing, getting a scholarship to study at a university as famous as the UB is a huge opportunity ​My chances were nil, and now I have a future. When I finish my studies I will look for a job, and I will continue my life's journey".

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