(This article is one of two in a package. The other is “Universities in France Help Refugees Succeed as Students.”)
LILLE, France—Many university students and faculty members in France have participated in efforts to welcome those fleeing war, repression or poverty onto their campuses. What may be less obvious is that these efforts are often enriching for them too.
When an unofficial refugee encampment in Calais known as the Jungle began filling up with new arrivals in 2015, Camille Doré started accompanying her father, a doctor, on visits there. While he attended to more serious medical problems, she provided first-aid under the auspices of Doctors Without Borders, cleaning and bandaging cuts and scrapes, mostly for young men who could not speak her language, French.
When the authorities dismantled the camp in the fall of 2016, the University of Lille scrambled to admit 80 of the migrants through a new program that aims to prepare refugees for university studies.
Doré herself subsequently enrolled at Lille as a law student, and soon founded a student organization she named Pangea. Named for the supercontinent that scientists postulate once comprised all earth’s land mass, and thus suggesting the unity of all people, the group’s mission is to help the campus’s refugee students integrate into French society.
Football and Field Trips
Pangea organizes weekly get-togethers for the new refugee students. French student volunteers come to chat with the newcomers, helping them with their studies and reinforcing their French language skills.
Using modest funding from the university, volunteers take the refugee students on cultural outings in the city of Lille, visiting museums, attending concerts, and sometimes eating out. Last spring they took 25 of the exiles to spend a weekend in Paris.