Organised by the Erasmus Student Network Malta (ESN Malta), a student society at the University of Malta, the Social Inclusion Days is a European initiative that aims to advocate for inclusive societies through activities that bring together international students and members of local communities in more than 42 countries across the continent. 

This year’s Social Inclusion Days took place between the 6th and 20th of April. During these two weeks, ESN Malta organised activities and campaigns that promote the integration of international students into the local communities and vice-versa. Through this initiative, international students are given the space to understand and learn more about the different Maltese communities and become more aware of local issues during their studies in Malta. It also helps boost the inclusiveness of Maltese communities and improves their sense of solidarity. 

Due to the pandemic and national restrictions, this year’s edition has had a massive digital focus as all events and activities were held online. “The COVID pandemic and social distancing rules have made it difficult for us to organise activities that bring together international and local students studying at University. Many international students took the brave decision to travel to Malta and follow their lectures here remotely, and unfortunately, not many of them have had the opportunity to interact with their classmates or discover the rich cultural diversity that Malta has to offer” says Luke Bonello Ghio, ESN Malta’s President. He explained that even though the student organisation was unable to organise many of their planned activities, they were still able to organise online activities that get people engaged in different topics while keeping them safe at the same time. 

As part of their initiative, ESN Malta organised a sustainable cooking class in solidarity with local farmers and a human bingo event. Both activities were held online. 

The sustainable cooking class was held in partnership with e-NGO Friends of the Earth. Participants included local and international students, interns and members of the general public. Friends of the Earth delivered a short workshop on the importance of sustainable farming and cooking practices and the positive impact that sourcing food from local farmers and eating in-season fruit and vegetables has on the environment. Besides this, eating local produce is a great way to support local businesses and local small scale farmers who have been struggling to sell their fruit and vegetables throughout this COVID crisis. 

During the cooking, class participants learned how to source and cook with fresh seasonal, local and homegrown ingredients and tried their hand at making a broad bean and mint risotto and a strawberry cheesecake for dessert. After the cooking class, the participants were able to enjoy their creations and interact with the other participants in the online class. 

University of Malta Erasmus Students pose with their meal following the Sustainable Cooking Class

“We organised the online Human Bingo event to bring together young people from different backgrounds and facilitate intercultural dialogue in a COVID safe setting” explained Luke Bonello Ghio, “over the past few months we’ve had many international students tell us that they’ve been finding it difficult to get to know their Maltese peers, so we came up with the Human Bingo concept to encourage domestic and international student interactions”. The Human Bingo event is a unique and innovative game that brought together foreign and local students studying at the University of Malta. Students were given a bingo sheet, but instead of numbers, each sheet had descriptions and characteristics about people. Examples include, ‘find someone whose parents are different nationalities’, or ‘find someone who has been bungee jumping'. The students were then placed into different breakout rooms and had to interact with other participants and get to know them to find out as much information about them in order to cross out as many fields as possible. 

“Our activities instigate connections between international students and local communities. By engaging with different communities we are able to become more aware of different societal issues, show greater solidarity to one another and begin building towards creating a better and more inclusive society” says Luke Bonello Ghio. 

Human Bingo Event