Buenos Dias, Bonjour, Hallo, Hej! Greetings from Global Cleveland, where I am excited to return after a trip through Europe. Via countless buses and trains, two ferries, and one flight I managed to visit six countries in just a few weeks.


One of the first cities I visited was Freiburg, Germany. It’s also the place where I studied for a semester during college and was my first experience traveling abroad. Returning to Freiburg reminds me of the first time I arrived there, hours late due to an airline strike and multiple cancelled flights, not sure if anyone would be there with the keys to my WG (dorm). Fortunately, I found my place – and with that, my passion for travel began and my passport had its first stamp. Returning this year, Freiburg feels like a completely new and still familiar place. From Freiburg to Berlin, and throughout the rest of the trip, one thing that caught my eye were signs of welcoming.

Plus1 Refugees Welcome: Entrance to Berlin nightclubs ask for 1 Euro extra that goes towards supporting refugees in Germany. Another creative method for supporting refugees I encountered was a social enterprise selling tea and donating proceeds to refugee serving organizations: Solidrinks (solidrinks.de)

Of course, slogans for welcoming also become political: A sign for the German Social Democratic Party, “Berlin bleibt weltoffen” (Berlin remains open to the world) boasts 184 nationalities, one city, one spirit.

A monument to the Berlin Wall (bars on the left represent where the wall formerly stood) and then across the street, graffiti reads “Mauern einreißen (Tear down walls) Refugees Welcome”

National identity is questioned many countries, and very much so in a formerly divided Berlin. Photos below: Dieses Haus stand früher in einem anderen Land” (This house was formerly in another land) and “Bist du Deutsche?” (Are you German?)

Berlin was not the only city where welcome signs were apparent. Refugees Welcome in Malmö, Sweden.

Refugees Welcome banner on the Palacio de Cibeles in Madrid, Spain

Visiting France was a surreal experience following the recent terrorist attacks and while the country is under a state of emergency. Armed police strolled the streets of Paris in groups of four, day and night, wearing combat gear and carrying massive weapons. Place de la République had been cleared of the makeshift memorial to the victims of terror attacks just before we paid a visit. Refugees had been cleared out, en masse, from where many had been seeking shelter under the Stalingrad metro station. Paris’ mayor has called for building an official refugee camp within the city of Paris. Seeing armed police patrolling, the cafes half empty, many closed for holiday, others still serving both locals and tourists, refugee families laying out bedding on the sidewalks, and viscerally feeling the tension in the air might not be a more traditional “Paris experience”. Of course, I also snapped several photos of the sparkling Eiffel Tower. But things are, and will continue, to change. The world is facing an unprecedented refugee crisis. Paris is arguably a place in the world where debates about migration are most readily visible, both in conversations and in the headlines splashed across newspapers and magazines – not just Charlie Hebdo.

Landing in Toronto, gearing up for the last border crossing from Canada before making our way home, I was surprised to see that the theme of welcoming continued. The City of Toronto manages welcome booths for international students as they arrive for the academic year and shared some best practices and ideas with me for Global Cleveland.


At a time when our societies and our political systems are increasingly divided, and our political discourse makes it seem like we only have a choice of either putting up walls or being overtaken by newcomers, it becomes even more important to talk about how it feels to be a newcomer in an unfamiliar place. To talk to someone, not in your native language, and connect in some way – no matter how small. To share something about yourself, to tell someone about your hometown, and listen to their journey. To reflect on how truly blessed many of us are, and how much can be done to help those who are in need. Even if it’s something as simple as saying, Welcome!

This September, Global Cleveland will partner on a series of events for Welcoming Week and will be celebrating Passport Awareness Month. We hope you will join us as we share the importance of welcoming and engaging with the world.