Monday, April 30, 2012

UNAM Student Exchange: Pictures

UNAM students presenting their "Social Work Tree"

Group discussions
Panel with political party representatives
Dance Class
CGE Social Policy Class Presentation
CGE Social Work Tree
CGE social work students presenting their  "tree"
Learning the UNAM school chant! Cachun cachun ra ra!

UNAM Social Work Exchange

The second week of April, the Social Work students of CGE had the great opportunity of taking part in an exchange with the students from the Escuala Nacional de Trabajo Social (ENTS). This school is the smallest in all of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), having about 3,000 alumni. However, it is practically the same size as the private schools in Minnesota we come from (Augsburg, St. Olaf, and St. Kate's), but different in that it is completely dedicated to social work. 

During our time at ENTS we had the chance to see how social work is done is Mexico through speaking with professors, spending time with students in their practicums, attending classes, and taking a tour. We learned that attending ENTS is completely free for all Mexican citizens besides the 30-cent charge for the piece of paper used for registration each year.  The school puts a great emphasis on the importance of research in social work, which was somewhat a new idea for me. 

The students have three different internships throughout their undergraduate schooling, and each begins with doing a diagnosis of the problem the population they are working with is facing.  Not until extensive research is complete and a plan of action is developed can the students begin to work one-on-one with the people. Another area of difference in the practicum is that the UNAM students work in groups as opposed to what we’re used to - working alone at different agencies. These groups of interns work as a team and provide support to one another. They divide the work and specialize in the topics they’re most interested in. 

The bachelor's level social work program at the UMAN is extremely intensive. The students are required to take up to 7 courses each semester in topics similar to ours, but much more extensive. All of the subjects they study purely surround social work topics. A student must know upon acceptance that they want to graduate with a degree in Social Work; while in the US we begin with general courses in order to give students the opportunity to explore different fields. I think each method produces different results. In my opinion, bachelor level college graduates in the United States know a little about a lot of different things, and the ENTS students receive an education more similar to a masters level degree in the US, knowing a lot about one specific thing: social work. In many ways, I think they are more prepared to be professionals with the completion of their degree, but something that was emphasized during our stay was that one system is not any better than the other, they are only different. Now that we have learned about the profession of social work from the Mexicans perspective, what unique things can we share about ourselves in the second half of this exchange?

By Natalie Koness

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Amatlán Homestay: Part 2

My homestay is in the same community as my internship. I teach ESL to people in the community. Also, if they are planning on migrating, I can help find resources in the U.S and Canada for them. I think this has been a great way for me to be involved in the community. I can go to peoples' homes and sit and talk with them for hours. In many ways, I still have to build a lot of trust with people and some of my longer goals would take over a year to really see the progress. I’m the outsider and I think in many ways that can be ok when doing research, but I have to be aware of the fact, that I’m not living in Amatlan to write reports and do research about migration. I want to emerge myself in the culture and really learn from the people around me. I think I’m extremely blessed to have met so many wonderful people on this journey. I have made some connections for life. I have realized how to really open my mind and take the time to grow and learn from the people around me. I have found ways of being more flexible and passionate about whatever the day brings my way.

I have always loved to help people, that's the reason I decide to go back to school. While studying social work in a Mexican context it’s obvious that everyone has really expanded on his or her abilities.

Many people think of social work as being some agency job where you sit at a desk in some office building. But this experience has shown me that we as social workers have to really be involved in the community. Many times what communities need are resources and money but they don’t get adequate funding. So your own skills and talents are what you need to bring to the community. I have seen many people in Mexico, that our in poverty and lack basic resources like water, land, food and shelter. So you have to be willing to use all your tools in your toolbox. I think one of my best tools is I know how to build things and like to work with my hands. 

By Dylan Peterson 

Amatlán Homestay: Part 1

One thing I’ve noticed during my homestay in Mexico is people treat me warmly and respectfully, and they make me feel welcome. Something that I've learned is that when working with Latinos and Latinas, it will be good to inquire about the well-being of their family and to engage in social conversation before addressing the issues that bring them into the office when I'm a social worker. 

I have always wanted to live in a rural area and work in the field. So, I was excited to help when my family asked me to contribute with daily activities that needed to get done. From getting water for the cows and horses, to setting up the campsite for weekend visitors. Also, I want to return one day and help my host father construct adobe for the four, one bedroom cabins he plans one making in the upcoming year or two. 

One morning, my host father told me to come quick, “la vaca esta teniendo un bebé.” I jumped up and ran with him to the field. When we arrived the cow was giving birth. This was one of the most imcredible things I have ever seen in my life. Also, the look on my host father’s face was priceless.

When reflecting on my homestay and listening to people' stories of crossing the border, I’ve learned more about my own cultural values, beliefs and behaviors.  By listening to different peoples' stories, I have gained more empathy and I think that can go a long way, for the different types of work I want to be a part of back in the United States.

By Dylan Peterson 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Photos from Puebla

 Photos from our recent excursion to Cholula and Puebla - two hours from our home in Cuernavaca!

Popocatépel, an active volcano, emitting a little smoke for our drive home

, , , an indigenous ceremony still performed today!

Men in Cholula performing the Danza de los Voladores , , ,

CGE Intern, Ryan, enjoying Puebla's culinary
specialty of chicken and mole!
Stephanie N., Katelyn, and Stephanie V.
diving into the infamous mole! 
The striking church in Puebla's main square

Monday, April 2, 2012

Semana Santa

Spring Break has finally arrived here in Cuernavaca! The students moved back into the CGE houses on Friday morning just in time to unpack and then pack again for their various Spring Break activities on Saturday. Semana Santa, Holy Week, is the typical Spring Break for universities and schools throughout Latin America.
Zihuatenejo - who wouldn't love this?

Twelve of the eighteen students - including all of the traditoinal social work students and the adored Social Work professor - opted for the idyllic beach resort towns of Ixtapa and Zihuatenejo. They're currently relaxing on the beach, getting their tans on and probably drinking fruit smoothies under cabanas without a worry in the world.

The Salto de San Antón
Other students chose to stay in the Cuernavaca area and spend their days traveling to the surrounding towns and sights. They spent the day yesterday going on a walk to the Salto de San Antón - our neighborhood's very own waterfall! Plans for the rest of the week include the world renowned Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, searching out Korean restaurants in the country's capital, visiting some art museums, catching up with their Mexican friends and having a movie night with their interns!

  • Have you studied abroad in Cuernavaca? If so, what did you do during your semester break? 
  • Any travel suggestions for current or future students?