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August 5, 2011

Listening To: “Long Walk Home” – This Day & Age, Always Leave the Ground
All summer I have been reading the blogs of the Heston interns in Uganda and Nicaragua and thinking about how terrifying it must be to go to another country and try to make friends, learn the language, understand cultural norms, maintain a job…the list goes on forever. Obviously the other interns did a fantastic job of making the most of their experience (your blogs were great, guys!), but I never really thought too much about how their stories and struggles really fit into my work here in Gettysburg. Last night I was thinking about this and realized something that I hadn’t really put together throughout the summer – almost every one of my students and all of the students with whom Miss Aleks teaches have gone or are going through this same situation. Only here, it’s not as easy.
The Heston interns had the privilege of being welcomed to Nicaragua and Uganda. Of course, there were many hardships, and the interns had plenty to overcome and I’m sure they did not feel like they were done when they left (because the Gettysburg interns certainly don’t feel ready to leave). But even though the interns who went abroad went through a very intense cultural experience and had to make many adjustments and even face some issues and events that they didn’t want to, they were still supported by many of us here in the United States, they were sent to people in their respective countries who welcomed them, gave them a place to stay, taught them about the culture, and appreciated the work that they were doing (please, if I am over-generalizing, I apologize).
My students come to the United States with their families and are not given the same treatment. But we know that already – immigrants, especially from Mexico and Latin America, are not really welcome in the United States, and therefore are not given the same “open arms” treatment that the interns received in Nicaragua and Uganda.
After trying so long to imagine how hard it was for the Heston interns trying to make the transition in Uganda and Nicaragua, I can’t even begin to imagine what it is like for immigrants moving here.
Some of the students wrote about their experiences in the United States for a workshop. It is clear that the majority of the students at summer school are very happy here, especially because they are given support through the LIU MEP21C program, where they can [often] interact with others from their culture and are not treated like outsiders. But many of them still miss the country from which they came. Many of the students wrote about how they would like to return to Mexico, a trip they once took to Mexico, or about family they left behind in Mexico. One student from Saudi Arabia wrote a heartbreaking unsent letter that was only four sentences long to the family he was forced to leave behind in Saudi Arabia about how he cannot see them or talk to them but he “need[s] to see them, need[s] to talk to them”.
I wish I could think of a way to make it easier for them.


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