Photo by Ariadna Santos. The UCF School of Social Work hosted a Refugee Simulation at Memory Mall on Tuesday. Students were encouraged to step into the shoes of immigrants and feel what they go through.

UCF School of Social Work hosts second annual Refugee Simulation


As bombs start descending from the sky and people around start to run, a person has only one minute to grab the most important belongings. In that split moment a person has to decide what those important belongings are.

This is how the second annual Refugee Simulation started, immersing attendees into the lives of refugees all over the world on Tuesday. The event was hosted by the UCF School of Social Work at Memory Mall.

After gathering their belongings, students went to the check-in table where they received their identification and were stripped of mostly all of their belongings.

“We have the belongings station, and I thought this was really important because, if people have to flee, they have to flee very fast,” said Mary Mann, instructor of the UCF Social Work program. “What would you take? And, if you don’t have to think about that, you don’t have to think about it, but when you do, what would it be?  Would it be your mother’s picture? Would it be your wallet? Your child’s favorite teddy bear? What would you gather if you only had a backpack?”

The following stations allowed students to receive a medical evaluation, get tested on their knowledge of the language of the camp and memorize quantities of supplies. Failure to do so would send attendees into detention where they stayed between five to 10 minutes.

For advertising and public relations major Jacqueline Vazquez, this simulation had a personal resonance. Coming from a family of Cuban refugees, she understood the struggles they went through.

“I was sent into detention,” Vazquez, 21, said. “I thought it was pretty realistic considering that this is what’s happening nowadays. I know, for example, that my parents had a very different experience, but some of these things really did happen to them.  I think it’s really good that this is being brought to life and that students have the opportunity, in a very small way, to experience what is happening to people all over the world unjustly.”

In the last station, students learned the real-life stories of the people they were representing in the simulation. Local organizations such as Catholic Charities, Florida Abolitionists and Hope CommUnity Center provided information on how students could get involved in their own communities.

Social work major Rebekah Simpson did not have an opinion in regards to refugees before attending the simulation.

“I kind of felt like these people are coming to America and taking all of our stuff, but now that you see more stuff and see what they are going through, it becomes more personal,” Simpson, 23, said. “You have to take a side, and you can’t just decide, ‘I don’t want to have an opinion about this.’ You have to, so now I have an opinion.”

As the event keeps expanding, the level of impact it makes increases.

“Last year it was more of an educational, let’s tell you about this, feeling,” Mann said. “This year, it has a ‘step-into-their-shoes’ and you feel it. And, then we’ll process it and talk about it. Once you feel it, you can’t unfeel it.”