Journey to IEDP 1.3: My Students Ignited My Fire

Journey to IEDP series: Throughout October, the IEDP admissions blog will publish a series of posts on our cohort’s distinct experiences that brought us to IEDP. Many of you reading this blog probably have myriad of questions: “should I go to graduate school?” “if so, which program should I apply to?” “how would my experience fit in IEDP?” “why would I want to be in IEDP” are probably only SOME of the questions boiling in your minds. This blog post series will show how some of our cohort mates have explored those very questions and came to our conclusions. 

When I graduated from Providence College in 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Global Studies, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my degree. A degree in Global Studies was just so broad, and I was overwhelmed with the possibilities of where I could go and what I could do. The commitment-phobe in me decided to sign up for a year of domestic service as an AmeriCorps VISTA, but beyond that, my future was hazy. Even once I ended up back at Providence College (PC) in 2014, as the program coordinator with the Feinstein Institute for Public Service, I still felt lost about where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do, and (perhaps most importantly), who I wanted to be.

That all started to change during my second year of working at PC. As part of my job, every spring I had the joy and privilege of co-teaching a global service-learning course called Global Border Crossing. A a semester long undergraduate class that studied borders through the lens of the US-México border, we traveled as a class to San Diego, CA and Tijuana, México, where we worked with Esperanza International, a Tijuana-based community development organization. Our week in Tijuana was spent passing buckets of concrete, staring at the ominous border wall, and doing a lot of reflecting and unlearning about our power and positionality as Americans.

Global Border Crossing Year 2

It was during my second year with this course that my future started to get a little bit clearer. The cohort of students that I traveled with (re)ignited my passion for building bridges through education; I don’t think they know it, but that second cohort of Global Border Crossing (and the third and the fourth) really set me onto the path that I’m on now, by reminding me of the power of education across borders. I remember coming home from Tijuana and writing in my journal, “I feel so full of purpose!” And pretty soon after, I started researching graduate programs…in Latin American and Chicano/a Studies (read: not International Educational Development; I wasn’t quite there yet).

Cape Town Year 1

A few months later, I traveled with another group of students to Cape Town, South Africa, where we took a community engagement and citizenship class at the University of Cape Town (UCT), alongside UCT students from across Sub-Saharan Africa. This experience ignited a different kind of fire in me–this time, one that was related to development and what it means to be an active citizen. I learned an immense amount from the PC and UCT students in this course, and my future again started to get clearer…but I still wasn’t sure if/how that was going to translate to graduate school.

Global Border Crossing Year 3

Finally, a few months after that first trip to Cape Town, the country that I call home elected a president whose vision for our country was (and is) so heinous that I felt even more lost, and painfully hopeless. But then I remembered that I am too invested in crossing borders, building bridges, learning and unlearning with my students, and being an active citizen to stay lost, stay hopeless, and to not do anything. Plus, as a Mexican American and daughter of an immigrant, I couldn’t turn away from this disaster.  So, after feeling purely angry and hurt for a while, with the help of the third cohort of Global Border Crossing students, I began to refocus my energies towards figuring out what I could do to combat hatred and injustice both at home and in other places dear to my heart. Again, my students re-ignited my fire for justice across borders, reminded me that there is hope (esperanza) in this world, and convinced me of the power of education.

Global Border Crossing Year 4

After four years of teaching and learning alongside young adults, I acknowledged that I want to be in this kind of academic environment (whether in higher education or not) for the long-term, but that I first need to get some more out-of-the-classroom experience to be the kind of educator I hope to be. I knew that, while my heart and mind will always be with Latin America, I didn’t want to limit myself to this region, so I needed to gain more international experience. I also knew that to do these things, I needed to go back to school, if for no other reason to get those extra letters after my name to open new doors (but as a self-proclaimed nerd, I was also so ready to be a full-time student again). Thus began the search for graduate programs (for real this time). I found a handful of programs that seemed to be a solid mix of all that I thought I wanted and needed out of a graduate program. After dozens of drafts of my personal statement, studying for that GRE (don’t get me started on that…), filling out all sorts of financial aid applications, and lots of reflection, I submitted applications to four programs across the country. All of the programs I applied to were either international and/or comparative education programs, and all in Graduate Schools of Education (even then I knew there was something special about IEDP, so I crossed my fingers extra hard after submitting that application). 

A year and a half later, here I am, two months into IEDP at Penn! I’ll admit that my future still feels foggy (at best), but I’m a lot more at peace with the unknown. I’m excited to continue to learn and unlearn through IEDP, and hopefully continue to stoke the fire inside me by learning how to use education to build bridges and cross borders throughout our world.

Special shoutout to the students that have helped light a fire in me time and time again; I wouldn’t be here without you: Taylor, Stephen, Molly, Rachael, Dee, Silvy, Marcie, Abby, Shannon, Phoebee, Sarah, Jarely, Karla, Christina, Genesy, Sean, Adrianna, Onassis, Meghan, Diana I., Emily, Magdalena, Kate, Fartun, Monica, Andrea, Grace, Rachel, Shelly, Alex, Gabby, Hannah, Brooke, Ryan, Lucky, Diana C., and Aida.


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