Gaza hosts first international student via exchange programme

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Gaza, March 11 : An Italian man has become the first student in the world to get an Erasmus Mundus scholarship in the Gaza Strip, where Israel has imposed a land, sea and air blockade for almost 12 years.

Riccardo Corradini, a sixth-year medical student comes from the northern Italian city of Trentino, is now considered the first international student to be hosted at Gaza’s Islamic University as part of the student exchange programme, Efe news reported.

“Before coming here I thought Gaza was a difficult place to live in. I was really interested to understand how things really go on in Gaza,” the 25-year-old told the agency.

Corradini is set to spend four months in the coastal enclave, where he will specialise in emergency surgery.

Three years ago, the University of Siena, where Corradini studies, started a collaboration with an Italian NGO that deals with Palestinian universities in the West Bank, and currently in Gaza.

“It is a great success for the entire academic world,” said Corradini. He has opened a door for other Italian students to travel to the strip as part of the programme that could be extended to other French or Spanish universities.

Corradini said he struggled to adapt to the Palestinian city at first due to the different pace of life. “Gaza is like a little world in a city. You have everything in it, everything you need from hospitals to universities to markets. It is difficult to find a place like this in the world,” he said.

In 2007, Israel blockaded the strip when Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist political organization and militant group took over, direly impacting the human life. Due to these restrictions, the public health services worsened.

The World Health Organization warned recently of shortage on 223 essential medicines in Gaza.

Last year, over 200 Palestinians were killed and nearly 30,000 others wounded in the weekly Great March of Return protests, which called for the right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants who, according to the UN, make up around two thirds of Gaza’s population, to return to their homeland what is now Israel.

Corradini, the aspiring surgeon focuses on his education and practices in several hospitals, where he attends emergencies that sometimes are related to the conflict. 

“People explain their daily suffering and express how life in Gaza has become increasingly difficult,” he said.