As someone is on the outside looking in, it was jaw dropping to see the amount that the social work students have changed from the first days until the last week of instruction.
The last week of the CGE program was a blend between appreciation for the gifts of Mexico, excitement for the warmth of home, and sadness in leaving the bonds that have been created south of the border. As part of the staff here at CGE, I was most excited to see the social work students´ final projects because the projects demonstrate not only what the students have learned, but what has touched their lives the most through their experience here. I was truly moved to see the way that the students were affected here.
Two of the social work students, Emily and Kayla, performed spoken word pieces that brought everyone to tears. Emily Uecker performed a piece on sexism and women´s empowerment in Mexico that touched on multiple issues that affect women including machismo, cat calling, empowerment through the household, barriers to education, and sexual violence. Emily masterfully used language to give voice to all of the speakers who taught us about gender and sexuality and she also recognized the women that spoke to her everyday at home. Kayla Wolff also performed an impressive spoken word piece about immigration and the perception Americans have on those who move to America from Mexico. Her piece was jam-packed with historical information about US-Mexico relations, personal experiences that have touched her, and gut emotions that she feels in seeing the way Americans treat those from Mexico. Laura Aguas and Amy Amsler similarly gave presentations from the heart, speaking about the range of emotions that they experienced while studying here for months, which they accompanied with art pieces that materialized what they learned. Laura Holdrege and Katie Lovrien created informative PowerPoints about social work in Mexico and the US that will be used to educate social work students in the future. The whole room was left feeling a stir of emotions as we all connected with the student´s words and their experiences.
As a final wrap up activity, all the students conducted their final lab group exercises and enjoyed a goodbye barbeque at the house of Ann, the program director. The group shared what they thought reverse culture shock would be like, giving each other tips about how to handle certain sticky situations. We also wrote down positive things about each other as a group which put a smile on everyone´s face . The students enjoyed their final moments as a group sharing ideas, savoring good food, and even holding a water fight. As someone who interacts with the students in a more administrative sense, to see the intellectual and personal change from the beginning to their final projects was inspiring. I feel honored to have a been a part of the social workers´ journey of learning and I wish them all a life full of new experiences that can allow them to continue to be life-long learners.
-Amaris Montes, CGE Volunteer