MSW Students Take International Immersion Elective Course in Merida, Mexico
Two first-year and four second-year students from the Master of Social Work program in Eugene participated in a 20-day immersion course during winter break with Professor Joe Gallegos. We traveled on January 4th with Professor Gallegos to Merida, Mexico where we resided with Mexican host families and participated in Spanish language courses for 4 hours every weekday at the Spanish Center Merida school. We also were able to experience weekly cooking lessons to learn about some traditional Yucatan foods.
The focus of the immersion course was to learn more about what social services and advocacy groups are available in the Yucatan area, and Merida in particular, and where there may be gaps in services. We attended presentations, meetings, and seminars with local service providers and educators, as well as touring important local landmarks such as Haciendas, the Uxmal ruins, museums, an ecovillage, and historical buildings in the area. We were all able to engage in a service project in a rural municipality called Cantamayec, where we helped a local organization prepare a donated space to be used for a children’s activity center and art gallery and helped prepare their beekeeping shelter for the new palm roof donated by Pacific University.
While it is hard to put our experiences into words or pinpoint a particular experience from the trip as the most meaningful or important, some were able to find just the right ones. Second year student Beau Curtiss '20 shared that if he had to choose one part to highlight, “it was the relationships that were built there with my colleagues and the maestras at the school and my host mama, senora Susana.”
"It was a rewarding experience to learn about the ways in which people in the community advocate and support different populations in Mexico."
—Jessica Garcia, MSW '21
For first year student Jessica Garcia '21, “it was a rewarding experience to learn about the ways in which people in the community advocate and support different populations in Mexico. I appreciate that there was a strengths-based focus and we were able to see the progress and projects, rather than focusing on problems. In particular, I enjoyed learning about the Mayan community and ways in which the community is advocating for and supporting their culture.”
We have all committed to continuing our Spanish language learning, and we feel that the experience has helped us broaden our perspectives and understanding of how social workers can make an impact wherever we end up.