SCU’s Immersion program offers participants the opportunity to see the world with a new perspective. Students experience life in both domestic and international environments and learn about the issues that these communities face. Senior AIS major Evan Chen recently coordinated an immersion to the Dominican Republic. We asked Evan to reflect on his experiences with immersions and share some advice for students that are considering applying.
What is an immersion?
The immersions program is run through the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education and allows groups of students to spend a week in other communities to learn about the issues that they face. Immersion sites can be local or international, ranging from as close as downtown San Jose to as far as Kenya and Tanzania.
What was the focus of your immersion?
The focus on my immersion was on the legal status of immigrants to the Dominican Republic, in particular those from Haiti. In 2013, the Dominican government passed Judgment 168/13, which retroactively denies citizenship to anyone born after 1929 who does not have at least one parent of Dominican descent. This means that many immigrants and their children are not considered legal residents. During our immersion we had the opportunity to visit bateyes, or sugar plantations, where there are many Dominicans of Haitian descent who have been affected by this ruling. Because these plantation workers often do not have legal status, the government bodies and corporations that own the bateyes do not provide enough compensation for the hard labor.
Why did you decide to become an Immersion Coordinator?
I wanted to become an Immersion Coordinator in order to complement my business education. One of my goals throughout college has been to find the intersection between business and social impact, and I felt that leading an immersion and helping other students learn about social issues was one way to accomplish this. By participating on the trip to the Dominican Republic, I was able to better see how I can use my business education to solve social issues, both locally and globally.
What was your favorite part of the immersion?
There were several aspects of the Dominican Republic immersion that I really enjoyed. First, it was really fun to learn more about the local culture. We had the opportunity to try local cuisine (which was delicious!) and learn dances such as merengue and salsa. The hospitality was also amazing there; even though the communities we visited did not necessarily have much for themselves and did not know us, they still offered us so much food and made us feel at right at home. Finally, I really enjoyed our time at the bateyes. During our visits, we were able to spend time with all the children, giving them many piggyback rides and playing sports with them. Overall, it was a really amazing experience and I am grateful that I was able to visit the Dominican Republic.
What is your advice to people thinking about going on immersion?
Definitely go on an immersion at least once during your college career! It is an amazing opportunity to build bonds, not only with other communities but also with fellow SCU students from all parts of campus. I also think that it is a great way to complement your business education and integrate SCU's Jesuit mission into your learning. I guarantee that you will not regret the experience!
Click here to learn more about the Ignatian Center’s opportunities for immersions.