Friday, March 6, 2009

WEEK 5: Preparation For Urban Homestay with Mexican Families

What a whirlwind week! Day-to-day life, as usual for college students, was full to the brim. Besides focusing on our Spanish finals and trying to enjoy our time together as a large group living under one roof, we were also trying to prepare for our homestays: a transition back into family-life and more immediate contact with Mexican culture.
Spanish Class at Universal
Students buckled down for Spanish finals at Universal. There was lots of studying, lots of talking, and lots of review. But our class also made a special trip out to Bons Café for a celebratory lunch with our professor! After it was all said and done, Universal hosted a pool-side barbeque party for the students and staff on Friday afternoon. It was a nice way to wrap up the time spent in the classroom, and now students are a little more prepared to engage in their field placements, family homestays, and the Cuernavaca community. Getting ready to present topics in class.
On Tuesday there was an orientation session to prepare for the transition into the four-week urban homestays. The homestay coordinator described some of the history of the area where 12 of the 17 social work students would be living. The students who are not living near us have been placed in areas close to their fieldwork placements, and still are not far from reach. During the discussion we divided into groups, and each focused on a different topic (i.e. roles in the family) to aid the transition. Then one student from each of the four groups represented the topics as a member of the “Panel of Experts” where the information was dispersed and questions were fielded. The picture above shows some of the students on break, about to present in the panel.

Lab group this week provided time to learn about the history of immigration policy in the United States of America. Each student shared their own immigration story of their family by writing a small summary and placing it appropriately on a timeline of important dates in American immigration history. Besides recognizing our commonality as children of immigrants, we observed U.S. policy trends and became more aware of the urgency in addressing fair legislation and immigration policy reform. This is important to keep in mind as some of the host-families have family members living in the U.S.A.
Students taking a peak at a timeline
of the history of immigration in the U.S.A.
Finally on Saturday, we met our new host-families. Over breakfast we shared the basics of our background and expectations and hopes for the experience. Packed into the dining room of Casa Cemal were 17 new families, and yet all together one large family of social workers in Cuernavaca! While nerves may have been heightened as we embarked on a new part of this journey, enthusiasm was even higher! Each student was warmly received by their new family, who expressed their desire for us to be comfortable, happy, and to learn and EAT a lot.

More than anything, I feel this week has truly been about living in the present, and living life to the fullest. Our history is important; it bears onto reality of today and the decisions for a better tomorrow. However, life is happening presently, and being in Mexico is a wonderful environment for us, as students, to practice the delicate balance that is the dance of life. We are challenged to be present to our studies, to our families at home, to each other as a cohort, to our new families in Mexico, and to the greater culture here. While sometimes it can feel as though we are spread thin, in taking account of the many opportunities and experiences we have as individuals and as a group, I conclude that we are truly blessed to have such rich and full lives.
--By Alysson Riutta

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