From Field Report to Feel Report

Professor Pagano, Director of the K. Robert Nilsson Center for European Studies in Bologna, had kindly arranged for me to meet with Giulio Asta, an Italian teacher for the Mondo Donna Scuola di Italiano per stranieri, “emergenza sbarchi” (A school for teaching migrants living in Bologna and a part of the Emergency Landing Team).  I arrived at L’Ortica, a restaurant/bar where we were to meet to discuss my migration research/blog project.

I was ready for my meeting, I went early and was armed with my pre-approved research questions.  After exchanging our greetings, I set about laying out my agenda with Giulio and explained how I envisioned the research being conducted.

Questions that I would ask the migrants included things like:

  • Did you know what to expect when arriving in Italy?
  • How has your experience been to date?
  • Do you think education in cultural differences and similarities would help ease tensions?
  • Do you have any ideas of how your experience could be better?

What I suppose was my idea of a rudimentary field report – defined here as describing the observation of people, places, and/or events and to analyze that observation data in order to identify and categorize common themes in relation to the research problem underpinning the study – wasn’t going to be feasible according to Guilio.

He explained that surveying, questioning, and videotaping his students was, culturally speaking, too aggressive and that it was highly unlikely that they would open up to a stranger that readily. He let me know that if I changed my approach from a research-based questionnaire to meeting migrants on a social level, I would be able to better understand their struggles and situation.

So, what started out as a straightforward Q&A and a video field report has now transitioned into what I am coining a “feel report” — a much more realistic and culturally-sensitive, immersive interchange.

The conclusion from this eye-opening meeting was that I, and perhaps many of us in America, are perhaps conditioned to think in specific results-oriented ways. We want to quickly dive into matters, and try and scientifically calculate or tabulate information. We draw our conclusions on things we have read in the media or hear via political “sound bites,” and rarely have boots on the ground when we analyze or take a stance on an issue.  In the half hour conversation I had with Giulio, I can say I personally learned more about migrants than the collective number of articles I have read on migration.

Ultimately, we are talking about compassion and understanding.

I am eager to get to know a migrant on a personal level and to hear his or her story. It is by connecting with one person at a time that we can come to better understand human conditions and problems. Having a frank and deep conversation with one person will provide me with deeper insight into migrant views, life and their situation than any stats I could compile.

I look forward to sharing with you my feel report.

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