UNIV 190-003: Understanding Service and Social Justice: The Refugee Experience in America
Third reflection paper
Prior to my freshman year at Loyola University, I enrolled in one of the various learning communities that Loyola has to offer. I chose to enroll in the international learning community due to my interest in global affairs and languages. As a part of being in the learning community, students were required to choose from a list of classes, of which they would be enrolled with their fellow learning community members. I along with a group of my peers chose to be enrolled in UNIV 190-Understanding Service and Social Justice: The Refugee Experience in America. In this class my peers and I learned much about the refugee experience in America. We learned this through first hand experience, due to the fact that we were required to spend a minimum of 25 hours volunteering with refugee families from around the world who now found themselves in America. I was partnered with one of my friends and classmates Benjamin Gavin. Together along with the semi-help of a peer mentor we visited an Iraqi refugee family who had previously been living in America for around nine months. Every Wednesday, Benjamin, the peer-mentor and myself would take either a taxi, or public transportation thirty minutes to their apartment complex. A normal visit would consist of the following: arrive at the house and have small talk for about 15 minutes to 30 minutes, then one of the children would excuse himself to go to the kitchen and get some coffee and cookies or doughnuts. After this we would usually get to on to helping them with their homework. Then if they needed help with some cultural aspect or technological aspect of their lives we would do our best to help them. After learning about their story I felt many different emotions. I felt sadness for the family that they were required to leave their home and travel due to unforeseen consequences. However at the same time I also felt happiness in the fact that the family was well adjusted to life here, or at least appeared to be well adjusted.
My refugee experience was one of hope and progress. Although I have known refugees before my experience at Loyola, and I have faced many struggles in my own personal life. I find hope in humanity through the refugees stories of resilience and perseverance. This experience has taught me about the community I live in by making me an active member in the community. Through various service projects of which I have been involved in, (Lost Boys Event, above and beyond 25 required service hours, Darfur Dream Team, and helping World Relief) I have acquired much knowledge about not only the world I live in but more specifically the community of which I am now a part of. My experience relates to and illuminates the issues of which we have been reading and discussing in class for the following reasons, in class I learned about the randomness of being accepted as a refugee, and that some would say that it is unfair. This made me realize how arduous the refugees journey is and that they face uncertainty along every step of their path.
I have been challenged to perform differently in many different ways. Firstly I have been challenged to perform more directly in actions with the refugee community due to my increase in knowledge about the conflicts that refugees face. It is through knowledge and action that we as a society can achieve change. Another way I have been challenged to perform differently is by acting in a more visual manner. I believe that if the refugee families can live their lives the way they do, with respect and the ideas of working hard, then I should work equally as hard to promote social justice and bring the best out of not only myself but those around me.