Immersion trips offer students transformative experiences that encourage us to become the best and truest versions of ourselves.
Over the summer in 2015, a group of twelve students took a three-week immersion trip to India, for the first-of-its-kind collaboration between Santa Clara’s Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education and India’s Jesuit Xavier Institute of Engineering (XIE) in Mumbai.
As part of the trip, two engineering students taught for a week at XIE, including a class on how to make robots with visual sensors, and helping with a project analyzing nearby cellular towers for radiation. The local newspaper wrote about the project, noting the rarity of Silicon Valley students visiting Mumbai.
This summer, Santa Clara engineering students returned to help XIE students with a project to use robots to help analyze sewage runoff and eventually replace the grueling human task of removing waste from public areas.
The trip and collaboration with XIE was facilitated by John Rose, S.J., a Jesuit from India who has been at Santa Clara off and on since 2009, when he received his master’s degree in computer engineering. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering and teaches robotics and cloud computing at XIE.
“It was wonderful to see the vibrant interaction between the students from Santa Clara and Xavier,” said Fr. Rose. “Their Jesuit values make them feel like they belong to one family, with everyone trying to make the world a better place.”
The India immersion isn’t the only trip the Ignatian Center offers. Other trips include Appalachia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Oakland, Cholula (Mexico), the Navajo Nation, and New Orleans. Each immersion offers students the opportunity to enter into the lives of people who have limited access to wealth, power, and privilege. They typically spend 5 to 10 days accompanying and building relationships with people in the community, learning about issues of injustice and poverty while reflecting on their own roles and responsibilities as global citizens.
“My immersion experiences in the Navajo Nation and El Salvador have been the most impactful and valuable parts of my time at Santa Clara University,” says Erin Savino ’17. Those experiences led her to become a student coordinator for the upcoming immersion to Cholula. “Immersion provides a vital space for reflection and discernment, unlike any atmosphere I have been in before. I am excited to head to Cholula—I hope that we will all be able to expand our awareness, understandings, and perspectives on the world.”
“In my experience, immersions are the a-ha moment that bring the realities of other worlds into students' lives, breaking open the chrysalis of understanding,” says Ignatian Center director Dorian Llywelyn, S.J. “Perhaps the people I have seen most transformed are faculty and staff, who are given the opportunity of entering into very unfamiliar worlds and roles. Transformation sometimes happens immediately, but it often matures slowly at a deeper level in the long experience of pondering over these immersions.”
Andrea Santillan, assistant director of SCU’s LEAD scholars program, is leading an immersion to Oakland focusing on homelessness and poverty, the criminal justice system, food justice, and the educational system in the city.
“I wanted to be a part of this experience to learn more about what is happening in our backyard, but to also engage with others in meaningful discernment about vocational choices in the non-profit sector,” she says. “Immersions are a great opportunity to not only build community as members of SCU, but also with others to learn their stories and continue to challenge ourselves on how we show up in the world.”
Program director Charles Mansour agrees. “Immersions are profound opportunities to be with those who live on the margin. Through encountering our brothers and sisters around the globe who experience injustice, immersions offer us opportunities to reflect on and respond to the many problems in our world,” he says. “Above all, they are transformative experiences that encourage us to become the best and truest versions of ourselves.”
Dec 12, 2016
Santa Clara students with XIE students. Photo courtesy of the Ignatian Center