Oh, how time flies! It feels like yesterday was fall quarter of my junior year, but spring quarter has just ended! I will miss the smell of the fragrant roses that travels through campus, and also my favorite tree.
I’ll be abroad for the next seven months. However, I still have yet to comprehend what this entails. A few days ago, I was talking to someone about my first destination, Quito, Ecuador. Thanks to the Jean Donovan Fellowship, I have the opportunity to engage with the people of Ecuador. The fellowship is named after Jean Donovan, a missionary who served in El Salvador during the Civil War. She, along with the Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, and Dorothy Kazel, provided various resources (e.g., shelter, food, and transportation to seek medical care) during that time. I first learned about Jean Donovan during my immersion trip to El Salvador (Spring 2017). Her life story is one that I appreciate and admire. My experience in El Salvador led me to became more involved with the greater community that Santa Clara University for part of. When I learned about the Jean Donovan Fellowship, I was glad that it was named after her because her work has affected the lives of many, including myself.
For my project proposal, I decided to focus on community development in Ecuador. My involvement in the community has led me to understand that one of my passions is interacting with people, especially from cultures different than my own. Thus, I knew my project would focus on community development. The reason I have decided to go abroad for the fellowship was for two reasons: 1) I want to learn about community development outside the USA and 2) I want to interact with and learn from a Spanish-speaking community different than mine (I am Mexican). Moreover, when I was researching for organizations, I looked for one that followed a bottom-up approach, meaning that the community is the one who decides where participants will serve. The community development program through International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ) was a perfect fit.
As I write this entry, I realize that I will be away for seven months. All the emotions that I have bottled up throughout the quarter about this experience are slowly making their way out.
There are two dominating emotions that I am currently feeling: nervousness and gratefulness. I am nervous about my departure for several reasons. For one, I am not sure of my role in the community development program because it is depended on the needs that the community sees, not on what the organization sees as their needs. Though I am nervous about this, I am glad that the community is the one guiding the service placements. Thank you to all the professors and mentors at SCU that have taught me the importance of listening to the community and letting them be the guides when it comes to supporting their needs. Knowing that this will be the first time I leave the country without the accompaniment of my parents is nerve-racking since I will not see them for seven months! I know, however, that this experience is not only for me but for all those who I will engage with in Ecuador, Argentina, and throughout my life.
I am grateful for the opportunity to embark on this journey. Thank you, dad and mom for all your sacrifices and your support. You left behind your families to give my siblings and me the most precious gift of all, education. The cost you paid, of course, was leaving behind your families in México and everything you know to live in an unfamiliar country. Nevertheless, you both still went forth with your decision. Your choice has had a tremendous impact on my life and, consequently, the lives of all those who I have met. Thank you for permitting me to accept the opportunity to be a Jean Donovan fellow in Ecuador and to study abroad in Argentina. Also, for inculcating in me the values of respect and learning, which have led me to where I am at this moment in time. I am also grateful for my little brother. Nico, continue questioning the world like you do because that’s how change begins. I will follow your example and not hold back my questions for fear of looking stupid or being labeled as “the fountain of questions” like I was by a teacher in middle school.
Thank you for reading my first entry! Stay tuned as I enter with respect two cultures in South America.
Maria Munoz Yepez