I truly cannot believe that I’m writing the final reflection for the course. This has been the most interesting learning experience that I’ve undergone throughout my four years of undergrad and that fact that it has come to an end is so surreal. This was such an important experience in terms of engaging with the community, gaining new skills in interview conduction and website development, and breaking out of my comfort zone and anxieties to produce something so unique and innovative.
Initially, the contract and project was focused exclusively on Mexican migration to the CSRA, however, after experiencing difficulties early on with finding interview participants, we decided to expand the scope of our project and contract to cover the more inclusive range of Latino migration. Unfortunately, broadening the scope alleviated very little of our troubles, and we struggled tremendously with the interview process, and were ultimately unable to collect the minimum requirement of four interviews. The public sentiment held in the region towards Latino migration is hostile, to put it mildly. We were naively optimistic, and we underestimated the implications of the project. Despite countless attempts at organizational and religious outreach, we were hindered by the lack of organizations and visibility in the area in addition to the extreme rise in anti-immigrant policies and sentiment from the local and state officials. Aside from census data, there is little research in regards to Latino migration to the area. This left us feeling somewhat in the dark at times, but overall we felt it pioneering to explore such a relatively unstudied subject.
I’m honestly so thankful that we got our two interviews. Gaining insight into the migration experience of a fellow USCA student was surreal and listening to her first-hand accounts on issues that I’ve learned about for years as a Sociology major truly opened my eyes to the importance of face-to-face conversations. I’m very much in a position of privilege, and while I can never truly empathize with Angelica, I can use her experiences to cultivate a more genuine and humanizing conception of social conditions. One can sit in a classroom and learn about the issues of social inequality, relative deprivation, and theories behind global social issues, but until engaging in personal discussions, you lack a necessary perspective; a perspective that is essential in the social sciences.
This was my first time conducting an interview and quite frankly, I was extremely nervous. I was also unbelievably anxious when it came to going out into the community and approaching strangers to speak about the project. However, this is perhaps the biggest takeaway from this course. It required me to engage in activities that the grips of my anxiety disorders would previously deter me from. I feel much more in control and less inhibited by my anxiety, and I cannot thank the course enough for allowing me to grow in this way.
In regards to website development and digital tools, I found a surprising amount of success! Our site utilized StoryMaps, ArcGIS maps, and Soundcloud. I was surprised by how how quickly I became proficient and enthralled with the technological aspect of this project. As an extremely indecisive person, I am typically overwhelmed when presented with a vast amount of customization options, however, I very much enjoyed the process of forming and manipulating site and tool design for this project. I particularly enjoyed the visual tools, such as ArcGIS maps, StoryMaps, and the customization of layout designs for WordPress. Our contract listed Timeline and SoundCite as an additional tool for our project, however, we struggled with identifying where to successfully incorporate the Timeline. As for SoundCite, we desperately and persistently tried to use this tool, but encountered technical issues with WordPress formatting that wouldn’t allow the clips to work properly in the text.
Overall, this project was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my collegiate career. Without a doubt, it was the most unique and engaging course I’ve ever been a part of and I’m so thrilled to have undergone this process under the guidance of such passionate professors and with such a dynamic and brilliant group of students from across the country. Through the Voices of Migration course, I’ve loosened the tight grip of my personal anxieties while simultaneously gaining insight into the local Latino migrant community. We intend to keep the site running and to hopefully spark a much needed dialogue in the CSRA on the human experiences of migration.