Q&A with Mandi Sit '20
What was your first experience with the Ignatian Center?
My first experience with the Ignatian Center was the San Jose First-Year Immersion. It happened the week before starting college and was my first experience of SCU. I wanted to go on the Into the Wild trip but was waitlisted, so I decided to apply to the Immersion because I wanted to meet people before starting school. It was serendipity. Immersions have been such an integral part of my college experience and have shaped the person I am today.
How did that experience effect you?
The main focus of the San Jose First-Year Immersion was homelessness, and the experience taught me about human dignity. It seems like such a simple concept, but all of my life I had been raised to ignore people sleeping on the streets or begging for money. They were not like us, “the other,” lazy drug addicts who didn’t want to work. After the immersion, I recognized these people as human beings, people with stories and families, and the trip changed my perspective on how I view and interact with people experiencing homelessness.
What other ICJE programs/immersion trips have you participated in?
The following year, I co-led the San Jose First-Year Immersion, I went on the first ever San Jose Urban Plunge, and I participated in the India Summer Immersion this past summer! I also started working for the Thriving Neighbors program this year as a Student Assistant.
How have those experiences effected you?
It might seem unexpected given its proximity to campus, but going on the San Jose First-Year Immersion as a leader was very impactful. It was like watching your favorite childhood movie when you're an adult and everything hits home in a deeper and more profound way than it did when you were a kid. When I went on the trip the second year, we didn't have showers for 4 days and slept on the floor in a church. My relationship with space and spending money completely changed and now I try to live more simply. Material things matter less to me and I value connecting with others and forming strong relationships.
What was the most impactful part of that experience/trip for you personally?
During the San Jose Immersion, there was a woman we met at Casa de Clara who told us how when she was experiencing homelessness, she'd be sitting in the library surrounded by people, and no one would realize that she was living on the streets because she would make the effort to make herself look presentable and "not homeless." I remember her describing the loneliness she felt and how ashamed she was for using a shopping cart to transport her stuff when moving. Hearing her perspective really humanized people experiencing homelessness for me. She didn't fit any of the stereotypes.
In India, my favorite parts of the immersion were living with an Indian host family in the city of Mumbai and learning about Indian life and culture, visiting Mother Teresa's House for the Dying and Destitute, and singing and dancing with school children in the rural villages of Talasari. Indeed, people from around the world are just like us and despite the language barrier at times, it was easy to connect with so many people who grew up on the other side of the world.
More specifically, at Mother Teresa's House, a few of us were hanging out with the disabled women who had just finished eating samosas. We couldn't speak their language so we just sat and looked at each other but in a comfortable silence. Then I saw one woman snatch an uneaten samosa that another lady had left on the ground. Taking someone else's food because they were still hungry was such a funny and relatable moment.
How do you plan to use your experiences with the Ignatian Center in your future?
The San Jose First-Year Immersion was my first introduction to social justice and sparked a flame inside me. Going to India has further inspired me to take action on a more local scale. I hope to continue building relationships with the people we met from the San Jose Immersion. Since visiting Casa de Clara for the first time last year, I’ve been back a few times for their monthly House of Story (open mic event, held the first Tuesday of the month).
In addition to my Environmental Studies major, I'm minoring in Entrepreneurship, so I'd like to combine these two fields and either work for or create a sustainable business that is mindful of its impact on the planet and people. Immersions taught me the importance and beauty of working with local communities to instigate change.