International immersion trips sponsored by the Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy (FCSA) were not canceled this winter because of the pandemic; they were simply reimagined.
They visited an English speaking classroom in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Managua, Nicaragua. A day later, they were exploring the topic of domestic violence in Guatemala, then economic and social issues in Costa Rica. The students traveled to four Central American countries in five days, without ever leaving their homes.
From February 1-5, FCSA, in partnership with the Center for Global Education and Experience, led students on a virtual immersion trip. In each country, speakers shared stories specific to the local communities. For example, Nicaraguan activist and muralist Gabriel Benavente described his experience during the 2018 social uprising. Richard Howard, a former Jesuit priest who lived and worked in El Salvador, was once called upon to identify the bodies of six slain Jesuit priests at the University of Central America. The executive director of Helping Kids Round First explained how the organization is using baseball and softball to connect with children in Nicaragua.
Each presenter had a story of solidarity, or immigration, or violence. Some walked the streets on Zoom, as Siena students tagged along through their screens. They all described a world far different from the Siena campus, but brightened by people willing to travel and make a difference. Siena students are just waiting for their chance...
"The drive that each person had to make their community better was truly inspiring and I’m certainly looking forward to going on an immersion trip in person in the future."
Shelby Madeiros '24
"Though a completely unexpected experience, being able to visit these places virtually opened my eyes the same way that in-person immersion trips have in the past. I am a personal believer that the best way to learn about a place is to meet and share a dialogue with the people that are from that community, and that is exactly what this experience allowed us to do."
Jordan Dunn '21
"Even though the experience was online, it was still life-changing. The people we were able to share this experience with inspired me to make a change in my own community. I was really intrigued learning about different people's cultures and how they were able to bring their own passions to create change through service."
Shelby Madeiros '24
"I am so grateful I had the chance to participate in this program. We had the opportunity to hear from a lot of great speakers who have such a wide variety of life experiences. Each individual truly had an impactful message, and I hope I have the chance to participate again next year!"
Angeline Jacob '23