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Albert Amankona: „Over the past three weeks in Salzburg I have experienced more racism than in my entire life in London“

„Off to Salzburg brb“….Indeed

Three weeks ago I embarked on the Erasmus+ program to study abroad in Canada Goose outlet always suitable for you Salzburg, Austria. The Erasmus+ program allows students from participating EU member states to study, work or live in another European country. It is a fantastic canada goose MonteBello Parka opportunity for young Europeans to learn a new language, live in another country and of course meet, study and well, do everything else that young Europeans do with each other. Around 300,000 students travel across the continent every year the most popular canada-goose-outlet-toronto destinations include Amsterdam, Barcelona, London and Paris, more study abroad to destinations worldwide. Most would describe studying abroad as a positive and even „life-changing experience“.Though this, as I have discovered is not the case for all.

Of course there are many reasons why students might not enjoy their years  Canada goose snow mantra for sale-Tuoni kuerka abroad; lovers left at home, language struggles, difficulty fitting in, finding a place to live and making new friends. All perfectly normal reasons for someone to find their time studying abroad taxing. I would say these are difficulties that the vast majority of study abroad students  Why Canada Goose Never Listed For Sale encounter, myself and friends of mine included. Then of course there are the few cases where a student might decide or be forced to cut their study abroad period short, perhaps a bereavement, illness, or even simply that the experience is ultimately not what they expected. I have heard of one such case and I found out on the Salzburg Erasmus page a woman posted that she was no longer coming to Salzburg because of „personal reasons“ and I tried to rent the room that she was offering. Sadly I couldn’t rent the room as it was in an all girls residence. Perhaps even more sadly I have to admit canada goose Mystique Parka that I am also one the few students who has had to cut their study abroad period short. The reasons are not personal, conversely they are social and political and hopefully one day the reasons for which I have left Salzburg will be historical. 

(…) over the past three weeks in Salzburg I have experienced more racism and discrimination than I have in my entire life in London (…)

There have been four what I would call significant incidents in the past weeks. The first is likely to have happened shortly after my arrival at my shared apartment in the Salzburg district of Hernau. A few days after I had arrived in Salzburg my lovely German Psychology student flatmate said „I can’t believe it, the guy downstairs has complained to the landlord that a black person is living upstairs“, the ‚black person living upstairs‘ of course being me. The second involved the same neighbour, when I was coming back to the apartment the following week he stood on his balcony and condescendingly asked my name, what I was doing here, why I was staying here and where I was from all of which I answered slightly sarcastically and I ended each answer by asking him the same question in return, which he did not answer. He then asked if I was registered. To which I replied „I don’t have time for this I am from London, England do you know where that is?“ and walked into the corridor and up the stairs on queue as reached the landing on his floor he reappeared from his door and blocked my way asking over again „are you registered, are you registered“ I stood looking at him confused and said „I don’t know what you’re talking about“. He then said „then I will call the Polezei (Police) and they will deal with this, in Austria this is how we do” then later that afternoon he came up to the door of my apartment and whispered „the Polezei are coming for you now my friend“,of course the police did not come for me. 

The third was on a bus to university when I overheard a group of older women on the bus talking about the refugee crisis, which is hugely affecting Salzburg at the moment. It just so happened that I was standing with the only other black people funnily enough at the back of the bus, the women saw us and shook their heads in disapproval. The fourth and most significant was at a bus stop at eight thirty at night, I was walking to the bus stop on the phone to my friend I walked past a woman and stood at the bus stop and a woman started screaming at me in German saying „Wir Sind in Osterreich, deutsch sprechen, deutsch sprechen…” (we are in Austria, speak German, speak German…) she repeated this for about five minutes until my bus arrived. She screamed it walking around at one point up in my face as if she was taunting me, daring me to speak English again. Whilst this was terrifying on its own in retrospect what was more chilling is that not one single person at the bus stop said or did anything as this was going on and there were about 15 people there, it was almost as if we were invisible. It was at this point where I thought that maybe Salzburg was not the right place for me. 

(…) I have travelled all over the world and never experienced the same problems as I did in Salzburg (…)

Needless to say over the past three weeks in Salzburg I have experienced more racism and discrimination than I have in my entire life in London. Whilst I know there are not many cities in the world as multicultural as London, or indeed countries as tolerant as the UK. I have travelled all over the world and never experienced the same problems as I did in Salzburg. I had heard about racism in Austria before from various other people; family members, friends and people who I’d meet and tell I was going to study in Austria. Their reactions were always along the lines of ‘oh, Austria – are you sure you want to go there?’. I never imagined that somewhere in ‘Western Europe’ contained people as overtly racist as some of the people I encountered during my short time in Salzburg nor did I expect to see a coffee shop called Afro coffee mocking almost every aspect of African culture, down to the cartoons on the wall reminiscent of „Golliwogs“. Why would I? Growing up in London and coming from the family which I do I have never until now been confronted with the fact that sadly some things in life are just much easier if you are white. It upsets me to say this but I have realised that it does not matter how clever you are, how well spoken you are, what school you went to or where you go to University some things in life are just much less problematic if you’re white, including studying abroad. I firmly believe that if everything else in my life was the same except I was white, my experiences in Salzburg would have been completely different and saying that upsets me deeply. 

(…) Parts of Europe are probably the worst place to study at the moment if you are not white (…)

Furthermore I would argue that parts of Europe are probably the worst place to study at the moment if you are not white and look like you could potentially be a refugee. Austria and Salzburg in particular being one of the worst. The refugee crisis has become a huge problem in Austria, which is already arguably one of the most conservative and inward countries in Europe. Hundreds of refugees have been arriving from Italy and Hungary in recent weeks especially in Salzburg which is the last stop on the railway line to Germany, where many refugees are headed. Salzburg is already home to many homeless people, they line the streets of the city centre a clear sign that the cities public resources are already stretched. With more refugees arriving by the day public resources are being stretched further and the situation is tense between the locals and the refugees. If you look like you could be a refugee some will treat you as a second class citizen. There is a lot of support for the refugees in Salzburg, mainly from the church and Universities however I would say there is an equal or an even greater opposition to them. Further provincial Elections loom in which the far-right FPO party are expected to make further major gains as they have already done so in Upper Austria. Many are putting this down to the ongoing refugee crisis. These tensions are what the Vice-Chancellor of the University in Salzburg put my experiences down to when I spoke with her on the phone earlier this week. Perhaps the refugee crisis can be less of a crisis for Europe and more a solution for some of it’s problems. A solution to the vast differences in cultural tolerance between states, something which divides the ‚more tolerant‘ west and the ‚less tolerant‘ east. Countries such as Austria and Hungary being for the most part less multi-cultural and tolerant than other countries of a similar size such as The Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium. This new influx of different cultures to such nations will force such states become more tolerant of different cultures because if one thing is for sure the refugees are here and they are here to stay. Even we, in the ‚tolerant and diverse‘ UK have something to answer for in that respect. I do however think it will get worse before it gets better. 

It is a sad day when fellow Europeans treat each other so badly that they are forced to leave a country, it is a sadder day still when people treat others so badly that they do not help them when they need help the most – for the sole reason that they are other. I hope that one day I return to Salzburg and have a more positive experience, though neither my return nor the change necessary for me to consider it will happen anytime soon. 

 




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