Though immigration is a hot button topic in the southern regions of the United States, it doesn’t mean the issue goes unnoticed elsewhere.
Students at Saint Mary’s College, located in northern Indiana, have been paying close attention to the issues regarding immigration. Though the college is certainly not close to the border, the community has its share of immigrants, both with and without documentation.
“I think it is extremely important for college students to be knowledgeable about immigration because, as voters and future legislators, we have the power to make positive changes regarding this issue,” Megan Woodring, a junior at Saint Mary’s College, said.
Many students agreed becoming better informed about immigration is crucial in order to inspire change. Senior Areli Marisol Bautista said students often allow the media to influence their impressions about immigration and then formulate opinions without obtaining all the facts.
Despite this, Bautista said she believes college students can make a difference by changing the way the topic of immigration has been viewed.
“There are so many misconceptions about immigration, and being aware of the changes we can make as leaders of our community and our colleges toward this topic will only help us to become better listeners and better prepared to accept differences within our communities and outside of our schools,” she said.
Bautista and Woodring became more interested in immigration after working with the local immigrant community as part of a course designed to raise awareness on the issue.
Judy Fean, director of Campus Ministry at Saint Mary’s College participates in the course each fall as part of the faculty team that oversees the program.
Fean described the course, titled “The Church in the City,” as a one-credit immersion course that focuses on poverty through the eyes of those who live in the community, particularly immigrants.
According to Fean, the course aims to allow students to immerse themselves in a diverse culture by spending a weekend with a local host family.
“Students are able to hear first hand [about] the families’ journeys to the United States and the struggles. They share a meal with them and have an opportunity to ask questions,” she said.
Students said the course was enlightening, and helped them obtain valuable insights to come to a better understanding of the issues surrounding immigration.
“Even though I am Hispanic, I was able to learn so much about the struggles that the Latino community experiences, specifically in the area of South Bend, Indiana,” Bautista said. “It also gave me the opportunity to get involved with the community and put in practice my skills as an intercultural leader.”
Woodring said the course offered practical information, such as the regulations for obtaining citizenship, as well as the personal impact of the struggles of immigration.
“I think this course helps students put a face on immigration,” she said. “Many times we study this topic as a vocabulary word and definition, but the immersion course allows students to see the thoughts, feelings and relationships that help make immigrants who they are.”
Students said they enjoyed the course because it corrected many misconceptions about the rules and regulations regarding immigration. Additionally, students appreciated the opportunity to spend time within the community and hear personal accounts of immigration.
“My experience with the Church in the City was life-changing. Before I participated in the immersion course, I had no idea that there was such a diverse Hispanic community in South Bend,” Woodring said. “The experience forced me to step outside of my Saint Mary’s comfort zone. As a result, I learned what it means to practice solidarity and develop meaningful relationships with people from diverse backgrounds.”
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